Keeping new alfalfa seedings clear of weeds will improve first-cutting forage quality and reduce stand losses from intense weed competition. That’s according to Phil Kaatz, area forage and field crops educator with Michigan State University (MSU) Extension.

The key, says Kaatz, is controlling weeds in the first 60 days after establishment, when alfalfa seedlings are small, slowly growing and unable to compete.

“The best time to control perennial weeds and possible seed production that may eventually compete against seedlings and reduce plant stands is the growing season prior to planting alfalfa. If weeds are a problem in the spring prior to planting, conventional tillage can provide control during final seedbed preparation.”

In no-till situations, he suggests applying glyphosate or paraquat as a burndown. “Timing and rate of application are very important with chemical weed control. Spraying at the wrong time often results in poor weed control and crop injury. Follow label directions concerning proper rate, timing and placement of the herbicide based on weed species and size.”

Kaatz offers additional advice in an MSU post discussing how planning and preparing new alfalfa fields can improve forage yields and quality.