With late planting a reality in many areas of the country, Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage agronomist, suggests some alfalfa seeding shortcuts.
Some growers use floaters or air seeders rather than drills, which require firm seedbeds and several tillage operations, he says. Broadcasting seed not only saves time because less tillage is needed, it also leaves the field slightly rough and seeds are spread much faster than with a drill.
“But, make sure the custom applicator is experienced at spreading the seed evenly,” he warns. “After broadcasting the seed, you still must cover the seed with a little soil. Two quick passes with a flat drag harrow or a roller seem to work best.”
No-till or low-till seedings also can save time. This works best in bean stubble, but small grain and corn and sorghum stubble can be used, he says.
“If residue is heavy, first shred or chop stalks so they are spread across the ground uniformly. After they dry, the drill will be able to cut through them easier. Also, if the field has much ridging from previous crop rows, disk lightly to level the ground so future trips across the field will not be so rough.”
Apply a burndown herbicide such as glyphosate or Gramoxone before planting if weeds are still thriving after a light disking. Then no-till seed, and use a postemergence herbicide, like Poast Plus, Select, Buctril, Raptor, or Pursuit, for early weeds.
Dryland alfalfa must be seeded by May 15 and irrigated alfalfa by May 31 for best results, Anderson says.