Tips for Spring Planting Alfalfa

When it’s “go time,” you want to make sure that you have the best alfalfa to fit your field and your end use. Not all alfalfa is created equally, so it pays to give special attention to quality and yield.

Perform a soil test, so you know the soil’s pH, potassium and phosphorous levels. Sulfur and boron levels also factor into forage quality and yield. Alfalfa thrives in well-drained soils with a pH between 6.2 and 7.5. Avoid seeding alfalfa into soils that contain residual herbicides from a previous crop. Seeding alfalfa into existing alfalfa fields is discouraged.

Alfalfa seeding varies widely depending on your location. Seeding in the Upper Midwest can be done from mid-April through May. Seeding in June in the northernmost regions is not uncommon. Seeding early into soils that are too cold may result in delayed emergence, which can cause seedling rot and reduced stands. Planting too late may result in dry topsoil, which can also lead to reduced stands.

Precision planting is not just for corn and soybeans. Alfalfa should be seeded about three-eighths to one-half inch below the soil surface. The ideal stand establishment is between 30 and 35 plants per square foot.

Typical seeding rates for alfalfa seeded without a cover crop are between 12 to 15 pounds per acre. Alfalfa seedlings are very cold tolerant but cannot survive prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures.

High-quality seed is the best step you can take to ensure stand establishment! Look to your local Latham® dealer for help from the start.

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