• Jun 06, 2023
  • Article • Agronomy

Pushing The Alfalfa Yield and Quality Bar

Feel like your alfalfa performance has plateaued? Looking for new ways to push the yield and quality bar?
 
Many dynamics are at play in exceeding expectations, such as weather, input costs and their return, water regulations, ongoing surface and subsoil moisture deficits, pest incidence and more. There’s no single practice or product that can take stands to the next level alone, but an integrated approach can make all the difference. Make sure these elements of your alfalfa management plan are optimized to get the most from your crop.

Fertility 
Alfalfa responds well to increased fertility, especially when pH is in the 6.7-7.2 range. Alfalfa removes about 60-15-60 per dry matter (DM) ton so pay close attention to potassium and phosphorus by taking soil and tissue tests throughout the season.
 
It’s also a good idea to apply sulfur, especially in low organic matter soils since alfalfa removes 5 pounds per acre per DM ton. Boron is another nutrient to prioritize.
 
While proper fertility is critical, timing matters. Crop nutrients greatly impact germination and early establishment, so it’s best to ensure optimal P, K and pH levels are met before planting.
 
Remember to take soil texture and nutrient mobility into account when making fertility decisions. In most silt loam soils, P, K and calcium carbonate move relatively slowly through the soil profile, while elements like boron and sulfur move relatively quickly in comparison and may need multiple applications to fill nutrient requirements.
 
Pest And Disease Control 
Whether it’s alfalfa weevil, summer annual weeds, or common leaf spot, pests and disease are usually yield and quality robbers that can make big impacts in little time. Most insects and weeds have an economic threshold to meet before a pesticide application is warranted. However, when alfalfa hay and haylage is worth more, these thresholds are lower so an application may be justified at a lower pest population.
 
In addition to insect and weed management, disease prevention and control is also important. Fungicides used in alfalfa can help support overall plant health, yield and leaf retention. Traits are also a tool against disease. W-L’s UltraCut™ alfalfa disease package offers advanced resistance to Anthracnose and Aphanomyces disease strains.
 
Cutting Management 
Intended market is a primary driver of harvest timing, but your yield and quality goals are also important.
 
Alfalfa growers have always been faced with an inverse relationship between yield and quality at every cutting: Cut for higher forage quality and yield suffers; cut for higher yields and forage quality suffers. However, W-L’s HQ™ alfalfas can help you combat this age-old conundrum by allowing you to delay alfalfa harvest to a later maturity for higher yields without sacrificing quality.
 
This increased flexibility is all thanks to the HarvXtra® alfalfa trait, the most advanced on the market, developed to improve the quality of your alfalfa compared to conventional alfalfa at the same stage of maturity. 
 
Seed Selection 
Your alfalfa seed choice is a multiyear investment. Newer W-L genetics have a significant economic advantage over cheaper public or common varieties in yield potential, persistence, disease resistance and forage quality. Roundup Ready® Alfalfa continues to impress growers coast to coast with its great weed control flexibility and ease, and what many growers perceive in greater yields, quality and persistence.
 
Contact your local W-L Alfalfas® dealer to identify the best fit W-L variety for your cutting management and production goals.
 
© 2023 Forage Genetics International, LLC. W-L Alfalfas® is a registered trademark of Forage Genetics International, LLC. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners
Pre-Harvest Maintenance Checklist For Your Alfalfa Mower
Article • Agronomy, Agronomy & Management, Farmer trials and experience, People and Partners, Pest & Disease, Research

Pre-Harvest Maintenance Checklist For Your Alfalfa Mower

Pushing The Alfalfa Yield and Quality Bar