His new forage seedings, made last fall and this spring, are looking "very ugly," reports Marvin Hall, Penn State University (PSU) Extension forage specialist. He's been getting similar reports from around the state and says a long stretch of unusual weather is likely to blame.

In last week's edition of PSU's Field Crop News, Hall pointed out that, for some seedings made in August and September of 2010, the problem can be attributed to dry weather that delayed seed germination until late September or early October. "This resulted in smaller-than-desired plants going into the winter and weak plants going into this (year's) wet and cold spring. Now the rains have stopped and the summer temperatures are high, which adds further stress to these already-stressed plants."

With spring-seeded stands, seedings were made late and followed by wet and cool weather, Hall noted. "Then, when the temperature began to warm up, the rains stopped. Root development had been slowed by the cool and wet soil conditions, and now the roots haven't developed enough to extract moisture or sufficient nutrients from deeper in the soil."

Hall's recommended plan of action:

  • Assess stand density. If there are insufficient forage plants (less than 15 alfalfa plants/square foot), make plans to take the seeding out. If there are sufficient plants, make sure soil fertility is at an optimum level.
  • Control weeds and insects. "Any additional stress to these plants could be the straw that breaks the camel's back," says Hall.
  • Continue monitoring the seeding closely into October when cooler and wetter weather should be ideal for plant growth. If there is no improvement this fall, plan to take out the seeding in your rotation next spring.