Spring Options for Reduced Alfalfa Hay Stands
Margaret A Smith, PhD
Albert Lea Seed Forage Agronomist
Seeing loss in your alfalfa stand? Whether it’s 100 percent alfalfa or a mix of alfalfa and grass, you will lose some alfalfa each year after full establishment. But what can you do if stand losses are higher than expected? Several options are available, but a thorough evaluation of the current stand is the first step.
Stand health and potential yield for this year are fairly predictable based on alfalfa stem counts per square foot, alfalfa crowns and root health, and the presence or absence of large gaps in the hay stand. The University of Wisconsin’s forage team provides an excellent guide for stand evaluation when you have uniform loss across your field: Alfalfa Stand Assessment: Is This Stand Good Enough to Keep.
You may, however, see greater stand losses with gaps scattered throughout the field. Where alfalfa stem counts are low and/or where there are noticeable gaps in your hay stand, you may want to:
- terminate the stand and plant another crop
- interseed in the early spring, or
- take a first cutting, then interseed other forage species
We’ve provided a printable guide below to help you sort through potential options based on your goals and the age and condition of your stand. If you have additional questions, we are happy to help. Give us a call at 800-352-5247.
• Alfalfa Winterkill: What now?
• Seeding Alfalfa Fields Back to Alfalfa
• When Alfalfa Winterkills, What Can You Do?
• Boosting Forage Yields in Thin Alfalfa Stands