Fawaz believes there should be no shortcuts in establishing an alfalfa field. Asked what he believes are the three most important elements. He said No. 1 and No. 2 are “good seed bed and good seed bed — for good soil to seed contact.”

No. 3 is good weed control prior to seeding. Irrigating a new stand is just as important. Alfalfa needs water frequently during stand establishment, “not necessarily a lot of water, but water at the right time.”

His best stands have been cross drilled compared to the more common practice of drilling and broadcasting in one pass.

“Cross drilling is an old practice. It costs more money to do it, but you get the best stand,” he said, adding it is particularly challenging to cross drill under a pivot where the rows are in a circle, but it can be done.

Fawaz is convinced spending the money necessary to get a good stand pays off financially in the long term.

Fawaz does not have any Roundup Ready alfalfa, but he provides some custom services in herbicide tolerant fields.

“It is great, but it is no panacea,” said Orloff. It has its place where there are troublesome weeds that can only be controlled by Roundup, like quackgrass.

“If you have a particular weed problem that Roundup can take care of, it makes sense. However, from my perspective, Roundup is a cheap herbicide and farmers tend to rely on it too much. That results in weed shifts.”

“Growers practicing good weed control probably do not need herbicide-resistant alfalfa,”  said Orloff.

Orloff and other UC forage specialists have worked extensively since before it was introduced. This research has defined many advantages, as well as better developing the best management practices for herbicide resistant alfalfa. Even through years of work, Orloff has discovered in the limited commercial fields that went in before the ban on seed sales was imposed that there is one area where it has a great fit.

“If you plant a stand and it has bare spots after it is up, you can spray the Roundup to get rid of the weeds in those patchy areas and replant the spots. It does not hurt the established alfalfa. You cannot do that with conventional alfalfa. That can be a big advantage for Roundup Ready alfalfa,” Orloff said.

Fawaz gives plenty of credit to Orloff and Dan Drake, the livestock farm advisor in the UCCE county office, for his success at such a young age.

“Steve and Dan help every farmer and rancher here maintain profitability by providing an unbiased link between the grower and other parts of the industry,” he said. “They are not trying to sell us anything — only providing us with information we can go out and use as best management approaches to our crops and animals.”

hcline@farmpress