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Evaluating Your Alfalfa Stand

Alfalfa Stand

Evaluating Your Alfalfa Stand

If you put off seeding new alfalfa fields last year, you may have already decided to plant this spring.

How will you decide about whether to keep a damaged or older stand? Most alfalfa growers are familiar with stem counts as a way to evaluate alfalfa stand productivity potential during the growing season. But stem counts are not possible until overwintering stands green up in spring.

You can make a preliminary assessment of alfalfa stand productivity before spring green-up, by counting plants per square foot in several areas of the field. Dig plants to assess whether crowns and roots are a healthy off-white color, not dried out, and not diseased. Assuming healthy plants, count plants per square foot while you’re at it.

Stands that were newly seeded in mid-late summer 2019 should come out of winter with 20 or more plants per square foot  and good uniformity across the field. For established stands planted last spring you should have at least twelve plants per square foot. Look for greater than 8 healthy plants per square foot in the spring of the second year, and at least 5 per square foot by the spring of the third full year after establishment.

Photo: Inadequate Alfalfa stands invite weed encroachment and reduced yields

 

Additional resources:

https://agcrops.osu.edu/newsletter/corn-newsletter/2019-07/assessing-winter-damage-and-evaluating-alfalfa-stand-health

http://livestocktrail.illinois.edu/pasturenet/paperDisplay.cfm?ContentID=10218

https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/forage/alfalfa-stand-assessment-is-this-stand-good-enough-to-keep/

https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/forage/evaluating-and-managing-alfalfa-stands-for-winter-injury/