| by Kenneth Chase | No comments

How to Start a Good Alfalfa Stand

So, today we’re going to look at what it
takes to get a good stand of alfalfa or grass. Some farmers always get good stands, and some
farmers have more problems getting good stands–so what are the key characteristics that they
have to think about to get a good stand to be able to end up with a good field like we
have behind me here. The important things we have to think about
are first having a weed free stand to start in, then to have the field leveled, then to
have it packed so we have soil that is firm and that your soil doesn’t sink in more
than a quarter of an inch, and then to place the seed at the proper depth. As long as we pay attention to those factors,
we will get a good stand most of the time. The first important thing is to have the field
tilled well, as you see behind me here, we want to have a weed free surface, and then
we also want to have it be reasonably firm so that the sole of the shoe does not sink
in more than a quarter of an inch. If the soil is too loose, then when we put
the seed in the soil the seed does not have good contact with the soil and won’t take
up water, and we’ll get a poor stand. So, packing the soil around the seed is crucial. The second thing we want to pay attention
to then is appropriate seeding depth. What we are looking at is that we want alfalfa
and grasses in that quarter to half inch range in most of our soils. We can go a little bit deeper in sands, but
generally we’re thinking a quarter to half an inch. This means that we should see some seeds on
the surface after we’re done. If we go back and look we should see approximately
4-5 seeds per square foot on the surface of the soil after we’ve seeded. If we do not see any seeds, then we have probably
put all of the seeds too deep. So, here is a stand of alfalfa that was seeded
about three weeks ago, it was seeded at about 12 pounds per acre and as you can see there
is a plant along here coming up in this row about every inch. That is a more than adequate stand for alfalfa,
if we have about 40 plants per square foot, that’s a good stand, and then all of those
stands will fit down to about 30-35 plants per square foot at the end of the seeding
year. Here is a spot where the seeding rate is really
unnecessarily high. This must have been about a 20 pound seeding
rate. If you look, you can see that there are three
to four plants per row, this will give us way more plants than that 30-40 that we need
for the end of the year. So this stand comes up now, it looks very
good, but the fact is the plants are competing against each other and the stands will gradually
thin down to 30-35 plants by the end of the seeding year.

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