Early August is a good time to plant perennial forages, giving them time to develop root systems that can handle overwintering, says Mark Sulc, Ohio State University Extension forage specialist.
Forages should be seeded by Aug. 15 in Ohio’s Coshocton County, for example. Delayed plantings will reduce dry matter yields of alfalfa more than those of orchardgrass or perennial ryegrass, he warns.
Growers who no-till alfalfa in early August will help plants resist sclerotinia crown and stem rot disease. A late-summer planting could show symptoms, such as white mold on small alfalfa seedlings, and the disease will develop further during winter.
To minimize weed competition before no-till seeding, Sulc recommends a burndown application of glyphosate. A mid- to late-fall application of Butyrac, Pursuit or Raptor and Buctril can be made after the alfalfa is growing. (See 2013 Ohio and Indiana Weed Control Guide.)
Growers planting alfalfa in tilled ground should prepare firm seedbeds to ensure good soil-to-seed contact. To test firmness, one can measure a footprint in the soil; if it’s more than ½” deep, a machine is needed to compact the ground, he says. Seeding depth should be ¼-½” deep at the most.
Test soil pH and fertility if soil hasn’t been sampled in the past three years. Optimum pH for alfalfa is 6.8 and 6 or above for forage grasses and clovers.
Legumes should have a minimum soil phosphorus level of 25 ppm and a minimum potassium level at 125 ppm. Soil testing can be done through Extension offices. The Spectrum Analytic Laboratory in Ohio charges $15/test. Call 740-622-2265 for more information.
Don’t, Sulc says, harvest a new perennial forage stand this fall unless it was planted to perennial or Italian ryegrass. To improve winter survival, mow or harvest those grasses to a stubble height of 2½-3” in late November.
You might also like: