Alfalfa Stand Assessment

How have your forages fared in the unpredictable Midwest winter weather? Winter weather in the Midwest is unpredictable to say the least. Bitter cold, mid-winter rain, and extreme freeze-thaw cycles may have taken their toll. Use the prime times in April and May to evaluate your alfalfa fields.  Are they going to be healthy, high-producing forage stands? Or is rotation the best option for maximum farm yield?

Tips for Evaluating Your Alfalfa Stands:

  • Healthy alfalfa stands will green up quickly & evenly. Alfalfa will break dormancy when we have 4-5 days of consistent 50-60° F temperatures. Compare your fields to each other and to neighboring farms.
    Damaged plants will have uneven, asymmetrical growth. Part of the crown, or at least some fall buds, may have died. This can result in lower yields & open ground.
  • Cut open some roots to evaluate for damage. Healthy roots have firm, moist, white-colored pith with little or no sign of rot. Dead roots can be gray and water soaked or dry & stringy. These plants will produce little to no forage.
  • After green-up (or in the fall), count growing stems per square foot. This is the best indicator of potential yield.
  • Follow this rule of thumb:
    • Greater than 55 stems = stem density not limiting yield
    • 40-55 stems = some yield reduction; check other indicators
    • Less than 40 stems = severe yield limitation likely; consider replacing stand


If you need help evaluating an alfalfa stand or wish to discuss stand improvement options, speak to an experienced Midwestern BioAg Consultant today.