Tips for successfully establishing alfalfa on your farm.
Although alfalfa is very hardy once established, land selection, soil preparation, and attention to detail in seeding the crop are critical to the success of the crop. The goal in the first year of stand establishment is to ensure an even and dense crop and to ensure the root system is sufficiently developed to overwinter the crop.
Top Tips for Successful Alfalfa Establishment :
- Choose the right plot : pH>6.5 and not hydromorphic
- Prepare the soil well : fine soil on the surface while pressed down in depth to increase seed-soil contact
- Sow 1 cm deep : and 15 cm between rows maximum
- Sowing density of 900 seeds/m2 to be adapted to the field's conditions
- Sow at the right period : in the spring or in late summer, depending on the region
- Alfalfa requires healthy, well aerated soil to promote the development of the nodules and gas exhange in the root zone.
- Avoid hydromorphic or excessively compacted soil that asphyxiates the bacteria, preventing the development of nodules.
- Soil pH should also be considered. Excessively acidic soils inhibit the activity of symbiotic bacteria. Symbiotic activity is optimal with a slighly acidic to neutral pH.
- Alfalfa is an auto-toixic species, it is important to keep to a 5 to 7 year rotation between the sowing of two alfalfa crops on the same plot.
Soil and Seeding Preparation
- For optimal establishment and root growth, the seed bed should be sufficiently fine and crumbly on the surface.
- Alfalfa seeds are very fine. For good germination, the soil should be pressed back in place, and it is recommended to roll the soil before and after sowing to increase contact between the seed and soil particles.
- Target a seeding depth of 1 cm to ensure good even germination.
- The space between rows should be 15 cm at the max to optimise plant spacing and for easier weed control.
- Alfalfa should be planted densely to encourage seedlings thrive on establishment and a viable stand remains after overwintering.
- Target a seedling density of 800 seedlings/m2 to preserve a density of 450 to 500 plants/m2 after the first winter.
- Sowing density needs to be adapted to the planting region’s climate and the soil type:
- If the soil is healthy in the winter and if there is enough water in the summer, seed density can be reduced by 100 to 200 seeds/m2.
- Inversely, sowing density should be increased if the soil tends to be asphyxiating in the winter or in the case of very dry summer conditions.
MAS Seeds alfalfa is packaged in Précidose® units to guarantee a precise sowing density. Each Précidose contains 4.5 million seeds. Sowing at 2 Précidoses/ha ensures optimal sowing density of 900 seeds/m2.
When to Seed
- Alfalfa can be sown in the spring or late summer, depending on your region’s climate constraints.
- Sowing in late summer has the advantage of better establishing the crop – as the taproot can develop during the winter. The alfalfa can therefore be productive from the very first year of planting. However, late summer sowing is only possible in regions with a mild and humid autumn.
- In regions with a cool autumn and early frost, it is recommended to sow in the spring once the soil becomes warmer. Spring sowing is also preferred in regions where late summer is very hot and dry unless the alfalfa will be irrigated.
To get agronomic advice or find seed, contact find your local MAS Seeds representative.