Assess Alfalfa Stands For Winterkill Soon

Mar 19, 2014

After a particularly harsh winter, forage producers need to get out to their fields to assess the health of plants as they break dormancy, says Keith Johnson, forage specialist with Purdue University Extension.

As alfalfa greens up, check what effects winter may have inflicted.

Forages in areas affected by below-zero temperatures during periods of no snow cover are most at risk for damage. Low-lying field areas where snow accumulated and iced over are also at risk for loss from suffocation.

"Get out there and observe those fields," says Johnson. "As the crop breaks dormancy, producers need to check to see if plant green-up is occurring. If that's not happening after several days with temperatures in the 50s and 60s, it's time for concern."

Although soils have stayed frozen for most of the winter in many areas, alfalfa growers still should pay attention to root heaving, he says. When some soils, especially those saturated and with some clay, go through multiple freeze and thaw cycles, alfalfa plants can be pushed up out of the ground.

Crowns and taproots should also be assessed. Johnson advises growers to slice into crowns of a few plants to see if bud tissues are cream-colored and green. "They also can inspect the root for cream-colored tissue. If they find dark brown tissue, that's not a good sign."

Stands with severe problems may not be worth saving, he says. If the problem area is limited to one large section of a field, it might be possible to seed something else just in that area.

If overseeding fields with thin stands, producers should consider using broadcast seeders on all-terrain vehicles.

Click here to see more...
Subscribe to our Newsletters

Trending Video