What is in this article?:
- Five ways to improve Western alfalfa yield, profitability
- Second - Manage alfalfa harvests
- Correct stand establishment pays dividends
- Herbicide timing is everything
- The five top ways to improve western-state alfalfa yield and profitability involve irrigation management, cutting schedules, fertilization, proper stand establishment, and herbicide timing, says UCCE alfalfa farm advisor Steve Orloff.
- The grower should determine precise crop water use, Orloff says.
The easiest and fairly accurate way is with soil moisture sensors.
Correct stand establishment pays dividends
The fourth best way to increase higher yield and productivity deals with stand establishment. Proper stand establishment is crucial since the grower generally must deal with the stand for three to four years in the Central Valley and six to eight years in the Intermountain area.”
"Good stand establishment includes a firm seedbed - avoid a 'fluffy' one."
Orloff suggests stepping on the soil in the field. The heel print should be one-half inch deep - not more - not less.
Deeper planting depths quickly reduce the emergence rate. A 1-inch seed depth cuts the emergence rate to 48 percent. A 2- to 2.5- inch depth is almost a fatal blow to emergence – a mere 2-percent emergence.
“Over my career, I have seen more stand establishment failures tied to seeding depth than any other factor,” Orloff noted.
Some growers believe a properly-seeded field generates almost 100 percent alfalfa emergence. In reality emergence is about 60 percent, even under ideal conditions – a one-quarter- to one-half-inch planting depth.
An often asked seeding question – does drill seeding or broadcast seeding create the best stand? Trials conducted by Orloff in Tulelake tested both types of planters.
“I believe you can get an adequate stand with both methods, but I think you can establish a few more plants with broadcast seeding,” Orloff shared.
Another planting question often posed by growers - when is the best time to plant a stand – in the late winter-spring or the late summer-early fall?
Orloff believes late summer-fall is the prime time to plant alfalfa as maximum root and crown development occur in the fall amid the cooler temperatures.
Other advantages of late summer-early fall plantings can include 20-50 percent higher yields in the intermountain area, less weed pressure, and faster seed germination.