With the weather as wet as it's been in many parts of the country this spring, taking steps to reduce the number of trips you make over an alfalfa field could pay big dividends, says Bruce Anderson, forage specialist with University of Nebraska Extension.
During the course of a harvest season, some alfalfa plants will likely be driven over at least 10 times, he notes. Research shows that, when a field is dry, plants driven on within one day of cutting, before regrowth starts, will yield about 5-7% less at next cutting. But driving on those plants just seven days after cutting, when regrowth shoots have started, reduces yield more than 25%, and plant survival also is reduced.
"Driving over the same plants a second or third time the same day caused about the same change in survival or yield as driving over them just once. However, when fields are wet, wheel traffic causes much more compaction and yield loss typically exceeds 30%."
Research results also show the value of baling and removing bales from hayfields as quickly as possible after cutting, adjusting equipment so more wheels trail one another and not following the same trail when removing bales or stacks from fields, Anderson says.