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Jenny's Lackey
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What can you tell me about alfalfa?

I was at MFA yesterday asking a few questions & got a few answers, but have more questions. Here's what I was told. It was better to plant alfalfa in the fall. The seed had to have ground contact. I could use WW/oats sparingly as a cover crop while it was developing.

I've read that alfalfa needs high ph. I'm working on getting it up, but not sure how high I've gotten it so far. Was around 5 & have added 2000#/acre of lime. If I do plant it this fall, what time should I plant & what kind of growth should I expect by bowseason? Fertilizer? Variety of alfalfa? Can I frost seed clover & lespadeza in with it next spring? Would there be an advantage or disadvantage to doing that?

I have access to a small no till drill from Farm & Home in Edina. How well will that work for alfalfa?

OK, I'm done, I'll shut up & listen now.
 

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I believe the preferred pH number is 6.5 - 7.0, but it may grow in 6.0 or above? My plots are around 6.7, and it seems to do just fine, but mine is a mix, and not straight alfalfa.

I know one of the best brands is Ameri-Graze, but it's expensive!!!

One thing I know, deer love it!!
 

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ph is critical,,,,like SB said. Also like he said the quality brands will be alittle expensive, but worth the difference. Nothing is worse than spending the $$ it takes to get a good stand and then winding up with small viney plants that don't produce much tonage. I am not sure but doubt that alfalfa would do well in a notill invironment. It is to easy to get the seed alittle to deep. Clover and alfalfa both have always done the best for me and those I know when it is sown directly on top of a firm seed bed and then rolled in. Something else that is available now is roundup ready alfalfa. This is something I am going to try in the future, because we have a serious early season grass problem on our place that makes it very difficult to get a good clean stand of alfalfa started. This would make it not practical to start a mixed stand of legumes,,but should make it alot easier to get a clean stand of alfalfa going. The tech charge on RR alfalfa is $125 per bag,,but when compared to the cost of Arrest and other grass specific herbicides, it really is'nt anymore expensive to use,,,,and if the herbicide is needed for more than one year,,the tech charge starts paying itself back real quick at the difference in cost between grass specifics and regular glyphosates.

:cheers::cheers:
 

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If youre seeding in the fall, dont let people talk you into 20 or 25#/A seeding rate.

Be patient, seed 15#/A, save you some money and wait. Once your stand is established, you will be fine.
Dont expect an ideal stand initiallly..
We've seen fall-seeded alfalfa at 15# yeild nearly the same as 25# seeding rates
the next cutting season.
 

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Jenny's Lackey
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Whitemarsh
Thanks for those links. That's exactly what I was looking for. Now I either need to find a cheap cultipacker or build one from a road tube.

Rat,
15#/acre is exactly what the MU link recomended.

I'm going to get a soil sample off next week & make sure I got enough lime worked in to get to 6.0 or better. I'm going to give it a try on a couple small areas & if I have good luck, may plant a couple acres next year.
 

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Originally posted by pinwheel
Whitemarsh
Thanks for those links. That's exactly what I was looking for. Now I either need to find a cheap cultipacker or build one from a road tube.
I have a 4 ft lawn roller that would work ok for ya if you need to borrow it. It's alittle small for your tractor, but an atv pulls it good and we are'nt that far apart.

:cheers::cheers:
 

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a couple things that weren't mentioned (i didn't check out the links.) you have to be willing to mow.....and spray..... not only for weeds but also for bugs weevils will wipe out alfalfa if you don't take care of them .....the hay type alfalfas require mowing once a month from late april early may till frost. so 4-5 times a year. if you don't they will die out alot faster. once you get a stand up its not quite as bad to keep the weeds out if you get a good stand. after the frist mowing each year it will be ok.
you won't see much growth in the fall till next year. lots of guys out west plant alfalfa and wheat at the same time works good for them never seen it done in this country though.
seed bed prep is of major improtance to a good stand. gramps aways said make it powder and use a brillon seeder to plant it only way to go. it is very very very easy to get it coverd to deep with a normal flat roller!!!!!


if i was going to go with alfalfa i would got with the alfalfa graze that being said i WOULDN"T plant alfalfa it requires alot of work i would plant bridsfoot trefiol my self. about as hard to get a good stand and plant the same way but much easier to maintan after you get it up and deer go just as wild with it
 

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Originally posted by huntforfunnfood
it is very very very easy to get it coverd to deep with a normal flat roller!!!!!
Good point. We always roll it good before we broadcast and then roll it once after broadcast. If the surface is'nt firm, it is easy to push clods over seed and cover it to deep.

:cheers::cheers:
 

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Jenny's Lackey
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
huntforfunnfood ,
Hard work don't scare me. I think my plot pics prove that.:) I knew I had to mow it a lot, but that's another excuse to spend time at the farm. Don't know anything about birdsfoot trefoil. Might look into it next year, I'll have more acres available then.

Henry,
Thanks for the offer on the roller. I've got one of those, just didn't realize it would work.

The area I'm planning to try this year is about 25' wide & 200 yds long. It's the old road bed that dead ends at the bridge out. I ran the chisel plow down it the other day & got it brode about 8" deep. Next I'll work it with the disc. Roundup in a few weeks & disc again before planting. I'll have a Sukup no till drill rented at that time, so I think I'll drill the wheat first, then roll it, then broadcast the alfalfa, then roll again. Even if the alfalfa don't do well, I'll still have the wheat growing there.

If it don't work well, I can always say I tried it.
 

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Pin, one of the best things you can do to those alfalfa plots once growing as was said before is get the forage off 3 to 4 times a year...bugging by the turkeys works pretty good in the spring but those deer like the new leafs and not those old stems. Haying is the best
There are also several herbicides that you can incorporate before planting. Spring weeds was my biggest problem even though we planted in the fall.

good luck and pray for rain and less heat
 

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man....you've got more money and time than me!

Alfalfa is alot of work to have good producing plot....and a LOT of money, more than I'm willing to spend on a plot! I wish I could do it, but I'm not willing to take the leap just yet.
Seems like good advice has been given already. Get the pH up and once it's growing take good care of it, lots of things to go wrong with alfalfa. The thing about it is, like I think Henry said, is that you can get a stand of alfalfa going with not near as much effort, but to get a good stand, that's going to yield tonnage and do you some good you want to do it right and take good care of it.
 

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Pinwheel, your plan sounds like a good one. I've planted quite a bit of alfalfa and usually have good success. I would make sure your lime is very fine, has a EMN or at least 600, and incorporate it well when you disc. ALfalfa likes a lot of P for germination, needs N until it starts to nodulate and will need a lot of K if you take off any of the forage. As far as micronutrients, B and S are essential for alfalfa success.

Alfalfa likes a well tilled and firm seedbed. The old timers say plant alfafa in the dust. You need the top to be fine with very few clods. It should be like flour to get the best results.

A Brillion seeder will give you the best results, but broadcasting and rolling is a close second. Does that no-till drill have a small seed attachment? If so, you can plant both wheat and alfalfa in one pass. Just let the alfalfa seed fall on top of the ground. If you have a good seedbed there is no need to roll it before planting unless there are a lot of clods. After you seed or broadcast roll the heck out of it. You can't over roll it. Your best germination will be in your tractor tracks.

If your seedbed and fertilility are optimum for alfalfa, expect a lot of weeds in the spring. Lambsquarter and pigweed are indicator weeds of high fertility and will usually germinate profusely. We control them with mowing. I like to mow it early and then every 28 days for forage production after the first year. Most folks around here only mow twice a year.

When you drive to Kirksville you pass one of my alfalfa patches just north of Clay's RV on the east side of 63 at the duals. That was planted in the early 90's and I farmed it for over 10 years. John M bought it several years ago and it is still producing for him. If you feed it it will grow.

Good luck and have fun with your alfalfa patch!:cheers:
 

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We spent three years getting alfalfa started and growing well. In one week, the bugs destroyed three acres. You must spray for bugs in the spring, right about the time your plot is needed to feed nursing does. What do you guys spray with that is not bad for the deer that are eating the alfalfa?
 

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We don't spray. We mowed at 10% bloom and the bugs go elsewhere. Alfalfa weevils and leafhoppers have been a problem the last couple of years, but haven't hardly seen any this year.
 

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I picked up my alfalfa from the NRCS this spring and am going to be planting it in about 2 weeks. They must have gave me 40 lbs of the stuff free. I figured since it was free that I will just try it for 1 year and if I don't like the results I will just work up the ground next year and try something else.
 

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We've never had bugs, well just a few this year but never enough to warrant spraying pesticides. Our fields are miles apart and a long ways from big alfalfa fields. We are working up 2 acres next month, spray, and spray and broadcast some RR alfalfa right after I get my flowers out and doves killed.
 

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Jenny's Lackey
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Originally posted by Hoytshooter
man....you've got more money and time than me!

Alfalfa is alot of work to have good producing plot....and a LOT of money, more than I'm willing to spend on a plot! I wish I could do it, but I'm not willing to take the leap just yet.
Seems like good advice has been given already. Get the pH up and once it's growing take good care of it, lots of things to go wrong with alfalfa. The thing about it is, like I think Henry said, is that you can get a stand of alfalfa going with not near as much effort, but to get a good stand, that's going to yield tonnage and do you some good you want to do it right and take good care of it.
Here's the deal with the money. Jenny & I made a deal when we bought this property. The money that comes off of the farm, goes back to the farm. Last year we made around $1500 off of the crops. We are spending that money to pay the taxes ($200) The rest is for food plots, tree stands etc. As for time, I work, & I work & I work. The only things I do for recreation is play poker on Friday night, hunt & spend time on my property. Since I don't know how to do anything but work, my play becomes work, or visa versa.

I'm not totally married to this alfallfa deal, just exploring my options. At this point, I don't even have a clue as to the cost. All I was planning to plant this year was a strip 20-25' wide & maybe 200 yds long. Around 1/4 acre. Surley it can't be that expensive, can it? I looked at a small bag of seed with deer pic on it the other day, $40. Is alfalfa more expensive than that? If it does well, & I plant more, I'll discuss it with my neighbor & see if he is willing to mow it for it. I'm hoping he'll drive 1 mile to cut & bale about 3 acres. May not be worth his time. I know I've got to get the ph up on that area before I do anything.

Whitemarsh,
Thanks for the very detailed post. It really was very helpful. I ran the chisel plow down that old roadbed this weekend. Broke up real well. I'll try to get it disced to powder in the next couple weeks. No more moisture than we've had, it shouldn't be much of a problem. I know the exact property you talked about N of clays. I used to live very near there on Harold Biggs farm. Really miss hunting in that area. Killed my biggest deer to date within 1/2 mile of your alfalfa.
 

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I wish that we could have mowed our plot a couple times this year in Lancaster...just could not do it...not enuf time...need to explore more options next year.

We have very good luck with frost seeding in late March. But I would have rathered to get it in the ground in the fall....

Soil tests are the key...then you will know what the cost will be...or sort of?!?

I think that you would be able to put in the effort and money to develop a very nice crop of alfalfa and your neighbor should be itchin' to get at that for some hay...most would...

Good luck Randy!
 
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