4 Things to Look for in your Alfalfa Crop in 2018

March 1, 2018

Alfalfa is a high-value crop that deserves to be diligently scouted and managed just like corn or soybeans. No matter how you use or market your alfalfa, it represents a significant investment of labor and money. Take the time to treat it right. Here are some of the top things you’ll need to know to make your alfalfa everything it can be.

  1. Good Management Practices for a Good Stand
  • Plant ¼”- ½” into a firm seedbed to control seed depth. The seed bed should be firm enough to only leave footprints as deep as the alfalfa is planted as you walk across it. Planting into a loose seedbed often allows seeds to end up at varying depths, resulting in uneven stands. Avoid surface application unless follow-up packing is performed.
  • Seed-to-soil contact is crucial. Water must leave the soil particle and enter the seed coat before the tiny seed can germinate. Press wheel drills, cultipackers, or other roller-type devices help increase seed-to-soil contact and the number of seedlings that germinate and become established plants. 
  1. Put boots on the ground.
  • It may sound obvious, but you can’t control what you can’t see. Be sure to scout your alfalfa fields, or have your agronomist do it, on a regular basis. For greater insights, pair these scouting efforts with the ag technology your agronomist offers, one of these tools includes Winfield United’s R7. A Field Monitoring tool which can quickly alert you to critical field issues such as depleted biomass, disease, and insects.
  1. Proper Trait Selection
  • Harvxtra® Alfalfa
    The most advanced alfalfa available today, it reduces non-digestible lignin content beyond what is possible with conventional breeding.  Farmers can choose to delay harvest up to 7-10 days to attain greater yield without sacrificing quality. Trials showed CROPLAN® HarvXtra® alfalfa varieties with three cuttings at 35-day intervals achieved 20 percent more forage yield over the life of the stand than conventional alfalfa with four cuttings at 28-day intervals. This gives farmers the flexibility to maintain current harvest schedules for improved quality, or delay harvest for greater yield potential without sacrificing quality. HarvXtra® doesn’t just appeal to farmers, it is also a great option for the cattlemen. With the reduction of non-digestible lignin it makes an amazing alfalfa to graze out.
    Key Variety: HarvaTron
  • Roundup Ready Alfalfa
    Proven performance on controlling weeds during the establishment period for higher yield potential over the life of the stand. This herbicide offers the broadest application flexibility, growers only need to wait only five days before grazing or harvest. Helps deliver a higher percentage of pure alfalfa for more high-quality hay, especially in the seedling year.
  • Conventional Alfalfa
    Developed through conventional breeding and is not the result of genetic engineering. Has excellent characteristics for high forage quality and excellent yield potential. Developed with high resistance to several key insects and diseases.
  1. Local Diseases and Insects to Watch For
  • Aphanomyces
    Aphanomyces is a disease that can destroy a first year stand.  It is a fungal plant disease that weakens seedlings and causes root pruning.  Once thought to only be caused by wet conditions at planting, Aphanomyces is now known to occur in soils with normal amounts of moisture.  Most damage occurs to seedlings, but infection can take place any time throughout the growing season. Plan on choosing a variety (ex. Rebound 6XT, Harvatron, or RR AphaTron 2XT) that is resistant to Aphanomyces Races 1 and 2 if you’re planting into wetter, heavier soils, or have had trouble in the past getting a stand established due to wet soil. Also look for varieties that come treated with Stamina fungicide to protect against multiple races of Aphanomyces, like Harvatron, all RR varieties, Legendairy HXD, and Rebound 6XT.
  • Leafhopper
    Leafhoppers damage occurs though direct insect feeding on the sap of alfalfa. It’s a piercing-sucking insect that causes injury referred to as hopper burn. This is identified by necrosis of leaflets starting at the tips and margins resulting in defoliation. Monitoring fields for populations and correctly identifying the leafhopper is essential to good management. Insecticide applications a few days after cutting alfalfa or planting leafhopper resistant varieties like Trailblazer are good management options.
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