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Old 12-25-2013, 01:30 PM
Bullwinkle Bullwinkle is offline
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Default Cover crop for alfalfa

This spring I plan on trying to plant a good alfalfa field to see how it performs against white clover and soybeans. I plan on no till drilling the alfalfa at a rate of 18lb/acre and doing the recommended chemistry improvements from the soil test

I know it is a good practice to have a cover crop. I have a bag of BFO left over. If I drill it all in it would be 35lb/acre. Is this enough for a cover crop? What rate is the best? Oats are cheap if I need more.
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Old 12-25-2013, 03:12 PM
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FarmerDan FarmerDan is offline
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You are going to get a lot of advice and you'll be told the best time to plant alfalfa is in the fall, that the table is stacked against you with a spring seeding.

All mostly true. But, I for one, don't think very far ahead. I hate for it to be spring and think I need to wait until fall to plant a crop that isn't going to bring much if any benefit for a year!?

I can't grow alfalfa here. It's all clover. But, in another life, I managed a couple of dairies in Upstate NY. We'd mostly plant alfalfa in the spring, early as we could get on the ground. And, we'd use oats as a nurse crop. A bushel or more.

Since you want oats only as a nurse crop, don't use more than a bushel. More competes with and reduces the seedling alfalfa survival rate.

So do it! I think you're spot on!

Now, alfalfa is tough! Field and climate ecology need to be just right -- in any season. Good luck!

http://www.midwestforage.org/pdf/182.pdf.pdf
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Old 12-25-2013, 04:33 PM
Bullwinkle Bullwinkle is offline
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The farmers around me do this all the time. If it doesn't work I can easily redo it in the fall

Thanks for the info
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Old 12-25-2013, 04:58 PM
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Bookmark this link and read it through over the winter. Everything you EVER need to know about growing alfalfa!

https://www.crops.org/files/publicat...ment-guide.pdf
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Old 12-25-2013, 06:45 PM
dogghr dogghr is offline
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Forget the spring planting. Plant in fall with WR and a light dose of clovers. I throw in some AWP and oats to help manage early browse.
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Old 12-25-2013, 08:40 PM
Bullwinkle Bullwinkle is offline
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Thanks - that article is awesome. Recommends spring planting in the north w/o a nurse crop. If a near crop is used 1-1.5 bushels of oats/acre. My 50lb bag should be perfect

Fall planting of alfalfa is recommended in the south
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Old 12-25-2013, 09:40 PM
NWKR NWKR is offline
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We always did spring planting with oats as a nurse crop. We needed a crap load of lime to get alfalfa going though. Most of the times I see oats planted these days in the parts of MN I see it is as a cover crop for alfalfa.

Do you think that you will need to cut the alfalfa to keep it from getting to mature/stemmy? Or will your high deer populations keep it down?
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Old 12-25-2013, 11:17 PM
Bullwinkle Bullwinkle is offline
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I am planting 1.4 acres. I would guess the oats will win and I have a farmer who will cut it for me. Same with the alfalfa if it gets too high

Just experimenting for fun. If this fails I will regroup in the fall

I bet soybeans will be the #1 attractant over the alfalfa.
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Old 12-26-2013, 08:41 AM
schlag schlag is offline
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Since you have a farmer cutting it...Get RR Alfalfa. This way you can have easy weed control. Having cut for hay at a certain point is a requirement to plant it.
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Old 12-26-2013, 10:24 AM
MOBuckChaser MOBuckChaser is offline
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RR Alfalfa costs about $350 for a 50lb bag. Conventional Vernal Alfalfa is $145. You can spray the Conventional Alfalfa new seeding with Buctril to kill the BL's. But the RR Alfalfa sure is nice because you can spray the weeds every year. But at over $100 an acre for just the seed it can get expensive if it winter kills!

Good Luck!
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Old 12-26-2013, 10:37 AM
Bullwinkle Bullwinkle is offline
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I have heard the rr is not as attractive to the deer as non-rr? Has anyone else heard this?

I am interested in focusing on only the most attractive plants I can find - interested in every edge I can get
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Old 12-26-2013, 05:10 PM
schlag schlag is offline
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You have heard wrong. Yes it is more expensive but you can start with a clean field and plant right away in the spring. You can have a 100% weed free field and that is why you have to pay more. It would be worth it.
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Old 12-26-2013, 10:21 PM
sandbur sandbur is offline
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Do you have your pH adjusted?

Does subsoil pH also need to be adjusted as alfalfa has deeper roots than clover?
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Old 12-27-2013, 05:48 PM
Bullwinkle Bullwinkle is offline
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Subsoil pH?

Oh boy, my soil test came back asking for 2 tons of lime. I was planning on putting 500lb of pelletized and 2 tons of ag lime on the surface when it is still frozen. The field is perfectly flat.

I was going to no till drill and not disk the lime in.

Mistake?
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Old 12-27-2013, 09:48 PM
ilrancher ilrancher is offline
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After year one we never have a problem with weeds in our Alfalfa fields that we grow for hay. Most weeds can't handle the number of cuttings (3-4) we put on. We either use Oats for a nurse crop, planting around April 1 in northern Illinois or we have used barley in the past. Livestock preferred the barley but not sure it matters one way or the other.

The deer sure love them in may though. When we had a field near timber they would just pour into it all spring until the corn got up to knee to waist high.
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Old 12-27-2013, 11:50 PM
sandbur sandbur is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bullwinkle View Post
Subsoil pH?

Oh boy, my soil test came back asking for 2 tons of lime. I was planning on putting 500lb of pelletized and 2 tons of ag lime on the surface when it is still frozen. The field is perfectly flat.

I was going to no till drill and not disk the lime in.

Mistake?

You need to work the lime in and give it some time.

We need a soil consultant or very experienced farmer to advise us on how many inches of soil depth need to have the proper pH for alfalfa.

Clover has shallow roots, alfalfa can reach deep.
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Old 12-28-2013, 08:41 AM
Bullwinkle Bullwinkle is offline
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May be over my head on thinking of alfalfa. I am going to give it a shot this spring, if it doesn't work - BFO this fall

Disking in that lime is a good thought. I will have to hire those Amish kids to pick rocks again for me. I try not disking and leaving the rocks in the ground. It is amazing the rocks I get out if these fields.

Thanks Sandbur
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Old 12-28-2013, 08:42 AM
schlag schlag is offline
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If your soil test calls for 2 tons of lime you probably will end up having to add 3 tons of AG lime. AG lime is not 100% "Potent" Soil tests assume you are adding 100 % potent AG lime. Tell the guy your buying the lime from how much of his lime will take to get to 2 tons per your soil test....HE WILL KNOW EXACTLY HOW MUCH. Don't waste your time with pellet lime for this. Also their is no way you should be planting Alfalfa unless your soil is perfect 1ST!!!!!!!!!!!! Lime now and plant in late July with no companion crop. You will have a nice clean stand.
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Old 12-28-2013, 08:56 AM
wiscwhip wiscwhip is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schlag View Post
If your soil test calls for 2 tons of lime you probably will end up having to add 3 tons of AG lime. AG lime is not 100% "Potent" Soil tests assume you are adding 100 % potent AG lime. Tell the guy your buying the lime from how much of his lime will take to get to 2 tons per your soil test....HE WILL KNOW EXACTLY HOW MUCH. Don't waste your time with pellet lime for this. Also their is no way you should be planting Alfalfa unless your soil is perfect 1ST!!!!!!!!!!!! Lime now and plant in late July with no companion crop. You will have a nice clean stand.

Schlag is spot on with the "amend first" comment. If your ph is too low you will have grossly retarded germination rates. Adult alfalfa plants can handle a bit lower ph, the seedling however will not tolerate it well at all.
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Old 12-28-2013, 08:55 PM
dogghr dogghr is offline
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I agree with getting your soil up to par first. I have spread ag lime on heavy fescue at that rate without tilling it in and my ph came up fine. If you have all those rocks, I don't blame you to stay away from tillage. And a year or two of rye/clover to help the soil may be good idea. Alfalfa does great for deer but can perform poorly in less than ideal soil. I still would do a July/ Aug planting with cover of rye and a clover mix thrown in. The deer will attack it from the start. They love that new growth.
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