Alfalfa Stand Establishment 

Questions and Answers 



Circular E-949 



Table of Contents  





Site Selection  

Question 1:  I am new to Oklahoma and to alfalfa production. What should I look for in a good alfalfa soil 
Question 2:  I want to produce more alfalfa hay, but I don't have any additional good alfalfa soil. What should I expect on the shallow soils that usually produce pretty good wheat yields? 
Question3:  How does profitability of alfalfa compare to wheat, soybeans, grain sorghum, and corn on shallow soils?

Crop Rotation  

Question 4:  How soon can alfalfa be planted following alfalfa?  
Question 5:  What are good rotational crops with alfalfa? 
Question 6:  Can I thicken up my thin alfalfa stand?  
Question 7:  Can alfalfa be established no-till?  
Question 8:  Will herbicide used on a previous crop cause injury to newly-planted alfalfa?

Soil Fertility  

Question 9:  When is the best time to take soil tests for stand establishment?  
Question 10:  What benefits are received by doubling the recommended amount of phosphorus fertilizer prior to planting alfalfa?  
Question 11:  I really don't see a difference when I fertilize. Am I getting a response?  
Question 12:  Does alfalfa need nitrogen for establishment?  
Question 13:  What about potash; does alfalfa need potassium fertilizer?  
Question 14:  Should nutrients other than P and K be added for high-yielding alfalfa?

Land Preparation and Seedbed Refinement  

Question 15:  What is an ideal seedbed for alfalfa?  
Question 16:  When should seedbed preparation begin?  
Question 17:  Do I have to moldboard plow before planting alfalfa?

Variety Choice and Seed Quality  

Question 18:  How can I determine the variety that is best for my operation?  
What do I need to know about variety selection?  
Question 19:  How resistant are these new alfalfa varieties to alfalfa weevil?  
Question 20:  Is it worth buying expensive alfalfa seed if I am using alfalfa for only three years in my crop rotation system?

Planting Rate, Date, and Dusting In  

Question 21:  What is the best planting rate for alfalfa in Oklahoma?  
Question 22:  How deep should alfalfa seeds be planted to get a good stand?  
Question 23:  When is the best date to plant alfalfa in Oklahoma?  
Question 24:  Should alfalfa be dusted in?

Planting Equipment  

Question 25:  What are my equipment options to plant alfalfa?

Companion Crops  

Question 26:  When are companion crops needed under Oklahoma conditions?  
Question 27:  What is the best companion crop for establishing alfalfa?

Seed Inoculation  

Question 28:  Should I always inoculate alfalfa seed before planting?  
Question 29:  My alfalfa is yellow and I cannot find nodules on the roots. Is there anything that can be done to improve inoculation after plants are established?

Insect Problems  

Question 30:  My fall-planted alfalfa has yellow areas where plants appear to be dying. In these yellow areas, there are tiny aphids that resemble greenbugs. What are they? Should I spray them?  

Question 31:  In addition to aphids, what other insects might infest my alfalfa stand?  
When should I look for them?

Weed Control  

Question 32:  How important is weed control with herbicides for alfalfa stand establishment?  
Question 33: What chemical weed control options are available for alfalfa stand establishment?  
Question 34:  Is it profitable to control weeds with herbicides in fall-planted alfalfa?

Harvesting New Stands and Heaving  

Question 35:  How soon after planting can I graze alfalfa or cut it for hay?  
Question 36:  Is heaving a problem that should concern us in Oklahoma?

Budgets and Economic Decision Making  

Question 37:  When capital is limited, what is a least-cost method of alfalfa stand establishment or where can costs be cut on stand establishment without undue damage?

Forages Legume Extension Publications  

Keys To Alfalfa Stand Establishment 


Back to Top 



This is the second in a series of circulars prepared by researchers and Extension specialists who are members of the Alfalfa Integrated Management Team of the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Oklahoma State University, and published in cooperation with the Oklahoma Alfalfa Hay & Seed Association. The first circular (E-943) dealt with alfalfa harvest management topics, and this publication addresses topics that are important to effective stand establishment. Each circular contains answers to specific questions posed by alfalfa producers regarding the most profitable and environmentally sound approaches for managing this forage crop.  

The objective of alfalfa stand establishment is to have about 15 to 20 vigorous plants per square foot as growth extends beyond the seedling stage. This circular covers most of the important components that help assure successful establishment to set the stage for several years of productive stand life. Reliable stand establishment depends on good planning, along with some "art" and "good farming" practices.  

The 38 producers' questions listed in the table of contents are arranged in chronological order, from choosing a site to decisions about first harvest. For uniformity we have tried to keep terms and cost values constant for all questions in this publication and in Circular E-943. In an attempt to address cost/benefit analysis, we used what we considered "normal" costs and prices. Some of our units of measure, prices, and conventions include:  

  • Use trade name of pesticides for clarity.  
  • Units of measure: If liquid, we use pt, qt, gal product/A. If powder or granular, we use lb/A.  
  • Hay yield is expressed in ton (s)/A.  
  • We use ft2 for square foot (feet).  
  • We use common names of weeds and insects (example, alfalfa weevil).  
  • Price of good quality weed-free alfalfa hay is $80/ton, unless otherwise stated.  
  • Haying cost is $22/A (cutting = $10/A, raking = $3/A, baling = $9/A).  
  • Cost of insecticide treatment plus application is $15/A, unless otherwise stated.  
  • Cost of dormant herbicide treatment plus application is $18/A, unless otherwise stated.  
  • Feed value of alfalfa for grazing is $60/ton. (See INTRODUCTION in Circular E-943).  

It is not unusual to hear about successful stands that were sown under adverse (or unusual) conditions, using unconventional methods. Recommendations in this circular were developed by careful observation of successful alfalfa production, first-hand experience, and research. We do not intend to imply that other practices never work. We encourage alfalfa producers to try new ideas, products, and practices. At the same time, producers should avoid temptations to extrapolate from single observations to other conditions or to think there is only one way to successfully establish alfalfa stands -- the way we have always done it.  

The authors of this circular would appreciate hearing from readers. We would like to know if producers find this an effective format for alfalfa Extension publications, if the information presented is realistic and usable, if the information seems appropriate for individual situations, etc.  

-- The AIM Committee.  

Summer 1996


Back to Table of Contents  

Back to Top 



PREPARED FOR REGIONAL ALFALFA CONFERENCES   BY A PANEL OF EXTENSION PERSONNEL AND ALFALFA PRODUCERS   SPONSORS   OKLAHOMA COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY AND OKLAHOMA ALFALFA HAY & SEED ASSOCIATION   PREPARED BY   John Caddel, Forage Extension Agronomist   Jim Stritzke, Forage Weed Control Specialist   Phil Mulder, Forage Extension Entomologist   Gordon Johnson, Extension Soil Fertility Specialist   Clement Ward, Extension Agricultural Economist   Ray Huhnke, Extension Agricultural Engineer   Richard Berberet, Alfalfa Entomologist   WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM OTHER ALFALFA INTEGRATED MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE MEMBERS   Lonnie Sellers, Southwest Area Extension Agronomist   Roger Gribble, Northwest Area Extension Agronomist   Mark Gregory, Southwest Area Extension Agronomist   Gerrit Cuperus, Extension IPM. Coordinator   ADVICE FROM THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OKLAHOMA ALFALFA HAY & SEED ASSOCIATION     OKLAHOMA COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE DIVISION OF AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES AND NATURAL RESOURCES OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY 


Back to Table of Contents  

Back to Top 


Previous Page