Alfalfa Stand Assessment

To say we’ve had a “tough winter” would be putting it mildly. April is prime time to evaluate your hay fields to see how they fared this past winter season. Bitter cold, mid-winter rain, and extreme freeze-thaw cycles may have taken their toll. Are they going to be healthy, high producing stands? Or is rotation the best option for maximum farm yield?

Here are some tips to evaluate existing alfalfa stands:

  • Healthy 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 a stand, or wish to discuss stand improvement options, contact Midwestern BioAg to speak with one of our experienced consultants today.