Spring Seeding into Poor Alfalfa

As you evaluate your alfalfa stands this spring and decide that something needs done, there are options for that land to produce forage for your operation this coming season…

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  1. Italian Ryegrass – An Italian ryegrass like Green Spirit or Tetraprime can be interseeded at 8-12 lbs per acre to add thickness to the stand to very high quality, highly digestible forage. This will make dairy quality silage or baleage when harvested timely, but will generally not dry down for dry hay. Italian ryegrass will usually only persist for one year, but could potentially overwinter for a spring harvest or be used as a green manure. Avoid drought prone soils or low fertility environments and be aware that summer heat and humidity can lessen production of a stand.
  2.  Hakari Brome – Interseeded at 8-12 lbs per acre, Hakari brome can be your “rescue grass” to add to hay production in year one. This is a quick-to-establish, short-lived perennial that can persist for 2-3 years when managed properly. This includes a mowing height of 3-4 inches to leave enough stubble remaining for regrowth, adequate rest time between cuttings, and fertile, well-drained soil. Unlike rhizomatous smooth brome, Hakari brome has an upright, tillering-type growth that works very well for dry hay with high forage quality.
  3.  Forage Triticale or Forage Oats – These cool season forages can be used when the need to spruce up a stand is detected early. These can be seeded at 30-50 lbs per acre early in the spring directly into existing alfalfa stand. The harvest of either of these forages with the alfalfa that remains allows for a summer annual such as forage sorghum or sorghum sudangrass to follow.
  4.  Teff– In stands where the alfalfa seems to be productive enough to get one cutting, teff can be a valuable option to sow. Teff is a summer annual cereal crop that has fine leaves and will dry well for hay. Teff can be harvested multiple times throughout the summer at boot stage when a four-inch stubble height is left for regrowth. The seed of teff is extremely small and the use of a good no-till drill into a firm seed bed is required for successful establishment (rolling after seeding is also preferred).
  5.  Full Renovation– When the status of your alfalfa stand calls for full renovation, take the first cutting, then utilize a summer annual crop. Using forage sorghum, sorghum sudangrass, or sudangrass planted in mid-May to mid-June will provide the most tonnage. Soil temperatures must be 65 degrees and rising for successful establishment of these forage crops. When selecting these, be sure to know what type of forage your farm needs. Forage sorghum will be most comparable to corn silage, whereas sorghum sudangrass and sudangrass will carry more protein and higher NDFd when harvested timely.

So, when it seems like the end is near for your alfalfa stand, but you need forage production for the season to come, take a look at these options to boost production!