Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, April 18, 1998, Image 210

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    Page 10—Foraging Around, Lancaster Farming, Saturday, April 18, 1998
National Forage Specialist
ABI Alfalfa and
Extension Agriculturlist
Forages Vai Tech (Retired)
Farmers are constantly looking
for a less-expensive, easier, more
reliable way to establish alfalfa.
With the release of successful graz
ing tolerant varieties (Alfagraze,
AmeriGraze 401 +Z, AmeriGraze
701, and AmeriGraze 702) more
farmers are adding alfalfa to
improve their pastures.
Establishing a strong stand can
be challenging, especially in pas
tures that are steep and subject to
erosion and moisture stress.
Conventional tillage in these condi
tions is a serious threat to soil con
servation and stand establishment.
Enter no-till alfalfa. Procedures
developed through research and
refined through large-scale farmer
adoption have made no-till seeding
practical and widely adopted in
many areas of the United States.
Two key components helping no
till alfalfa succeed - herbicides and
drills - also have improved. The
use of short-duration, low-residual
herbicides (Gramoxone and
Roundup) and the development of
improved no-till seeding drills have
made no-till practical and an easier
system of seeding.
Advantages of no-till over conven
tional seedings:
•More soil saved (less erosion)
•Lower costs
•Less time involved in seedbed
preparation and seeding
•Less labor
•More soil moisture saved
•More timely seeding.
Success standards for profitable
no-till alfalfa:
•Plan ahead - select your field at
least one year before seeding.
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Phone and fax 717-539-8993 or 800-774-0796
•Seed on well-drained soil,
•Seed in spring after winter soil
frost'melt. or in late summer (fall) at
least six weeks prior to historic first
frost date.
•Test soil to determine lime and
fertilizer needs and recommenda
tions. Needed lime should be
applied one year before seeding.
Best soil pH range is 6.4 to 6.7.
Nitrogen should NOT be used in no
•Control plan competition before
and after seeding.
•Seed 15 to 20 pounds per acre at
1/4- to 1/2-inch depth on most soils.
(Can seed at 3/4-inch depth on
sandy soils.)
•Scout often and control insects,
Seedling vigor:
Alfalfa, once established, is a
tough, very persistent legume. But
young alfalfa seedlings can be very
vulnerable. Competition with grass,
broadleaf and grassy weeds, and
resident legumes may cause many
new seedlings to be crowded or
smothered during early establish
ment. Control of existing plants
prior to seeding is a must. Short
residual herbicides, such as
Roundup and Gramoxone, offer very
effective broad-spectrum weed con
trol to keep weeds from competing
prior to and during stand establish
Where no-till works best:
•In perennial cool-season grass
•Following row crops
•Never into an old, thinning
alfalfa stand.
Techniques for seeding no-till
alfalfa in perennial cool-season
grass sods/spring seeding:
1. Reduce the competition from
existing plants with appropriate
herbicides. Decide prior to seeding
fe-A’-r '
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whether to eliminate the sod com
pletely or maintain a portion to grow
along with the alfalfa and modify
herbicide application accordingly.
Since errors in seed placement are a
primary cause of alfalfa stand fail
ure, use only no-till drills designed
for seeding into sod. Regular grain
drills cannot be depended upon to
establish an optimum stand because
they lack the engineering to get the
seed through the residue and into
the soil at the proper depth.
2. To eliminate as much of the
sod as possible (if desired), mow or
graze in early autumn and apply 1
quart of Gramoxone or 1 to 2 quarts
of Roundup per acre. In early
spring, a follow-up application of 1
pint Gramoxone may be used to
achieve total control. No-till seed
alfalfa in early spring (NOTE;
When using Gramoxone, always
include the recommended rate of
surfactant for better control.)
3. To maintain a portion of the
sod, graze or mow closely in early
autumn and apply 1 quart of
Gramoxone or 1 to 2 quarts of
Roundup per acre. A follow-up
spring application of 1 pint of
Gramoxone is necessary only if win
ter annual weeds are a threat.
4. In areas where perennial
broadleaf weeds such as dock, horse
nettle, thistles or other persistent
weeds are present, apply, 2,4-D
and/or Banvel® at locally recom
mended rates and dates.
Late summer seeding (a new
Graze or mow existing cover by
late spring. Apply 1 quart of
Gramoxone or 2 quarts of Roundup
per acre. No-till seed 20 to 25
pounds per acre of foxtail (German)
millet per acre. Harvest the mill for
hay or silage in 7 to 8 weeks (at
early head stage). If weeds or other
plants survive the spring herbicide
and summer smother crop, apply 1
pint of Gramoxone per acre for fall
cleanup. Seed alfalfa no-till at 15 to
20 pounds of seed per acre at least 6
weeks ahead of historic freeze date.
Following row crops:
1. Following com (harvested as
grain or silage), seed a small grain
for winter cover. If triazine herbi-
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cides (atrazine/simazine) are used in
row crop production, their residual
effects can injure legumes planted
the following spring, stick with
labeled recommendations for best
results. The following spring, apply
1 to 2 pints of Gramoxone in 20+
gallons of water per acre on the
small grain when 4 to 6 inches tall.
No-till drill 15 to 20 pounds alfalfa
immediately. Should small
regrowth occur (5 to 6 inches), mow
just above the alfalfa or graze to
help prevent smothering.
2. Alfalfa also may be seeded
without tillage into standing small
grain (8 to 10 inches) and wheat cut
in the dough stage help reduce
regrowth potential.
3. When small grain silage is
made before the boot stage, wait 5 to
10 days for regrowth and apply 1
pint of Gramoxone in 20 gallons of
water per acre, prior to seeding no
till alfalfa.
4. When the small grain is har
vested as grain, fall seeding of alfal
fa is best. Just before seeding, at
least six weeks before historic freeze
date, apply 1 to 2 pints of
Gramoxone per acre to control
weeds when soil moisture conditions
are favorable. Volunteer small grain
should be mowed or controlled with
Poast after seeding - if it reaches 5
to 7 inches in height and threatens
to smother the alfalfa seedlings.
No-till seeding is cost-effective:
Despite additional herbicide
costs, no-till seeding of alfalfa is
comparable in cost to conventional
seeding when managed properly,
according to many years of universi
ty research. The added benefits of
no-till - reduced trips across ths
field, less machinery wear and tear,
reduced seedbed preparation and
seeding time and labor, reduced soil
erosion, increased soil moisture -
offset increased expenses in chemi
No-till alfalfa works!
Obviously, successful no-till seed
ing of alfalfa requires attention to
detail and proper management to
obtain a good stand.
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