Wet weather and other fieldwork have prevented many Midwestern growers from planting alfalfa at the optimum time. So Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln extension forage specialist, offers some tips for making up lost time. “Fortunately, there are ways to save time with planting,” he says.

He suggests using a floater or air seeder instead of a drill because it requires less tillage since it's best to leave the field slightly rougher than normal. It also can spread seed much faster. “But be sure the custom applicator is experienced at spreading the seed evenly,” Anderson says. “After broadcasting, the seed needs to be incorporated into the soil just a little. Two quick passes with a flat harrow or roller work well.”

No-till or reduced-tillage seedings can also save time. Anderson says bean stubble might be best, but it can work in small grain and even corn or sorghum stubble. If residue is heavy, he urges growers to first shred or chop stalks so they’re spread uniformly across the ground. Then the drill can cut through them more easily. Also, if the field has excessive ridging from previous crop rows, disk lightly to level the ground so future trips across the field won’t be so rough. “If weeds are present, spray a burn-down herbicide like glyphosate or Gramoxone before planting, then seed no-till. Be prepared to use a post-emergence herbicide like Poast Plus, Select, Buctril, Raptor or Pursuit for early weeds,” he states.

For best results, alfalfa must be seeded by May 15 in dryland fields or by June 1 in irrigated fields in Nebraska, according to Anderson.