4 tips for reseeding alfalfa fields this August

We could sure use a shot of rain in my neck of the woods. The corn is rolling, the weeds are the only thing growing, and pastures are starting to look pretty brown. We more than likely won’t get another cutting of hay, but a few timely rains in July did allow our cover crops to get a good stand before the water shut off the last couple of weeks. We are in somewhat of a lull right now before we wean calves in early fall, so if we could get some moisture in the upcoming week, now might be a good time to consider reseeding alfalfa fields.

Rory Lewandowski, Ohio State University (OSU) Extension educator, says now is a good time to establish a perennial forage stand once wheat grain harvest is complete and before corn and soybean harvest begins.

Here are four considerations for reseeding an alfalfa field in late summer and early fall:

1. Moisture

In a recent OSU Beef Newsletter, Lewandowski writes, “Typically the main risk with an August planting is a question of sufficient moisture for seed germination and plant growth. Most of our perennial forage grasses and legumes are shallow seeded crops and should be planted no deeper than ½ inch and ideally closer to ¼ inch. If the seed bed is too dry, germination and emergence will be poor. This year’s weather pattern needs to be considered and planting may depend upon a favorable forecast for rain. It is best to plant right into moist soil or right before a large rain system is forecast. No-till planting is very helpful for preserving valuable moisture this time of year.”

2. Soil fertility and pH

“The recommended soil pH for alfalfa is 6.8,” he says. “Forage grasses and clovers should have a pH of 6.0 or above. The minimum or critical soil phosphorus level for forage legumes is 25 ppm and the critical soil potassium level is somewhere between 100 and 125 ppm for many of our soils.”

3. Seed selection

Lewandowski advises, “Be sure to use high quality seed of adapted, tested varieties and use fresh inoculum of the proper Rhizobium bacteria. ‘Common’ seed (variety not stated) is usually lower yielding and not as persistent, and from our trials, the savings in seed cost is lost within the first year or two by lower forage yields.”

4. Planter calibration

“If coated seed is used, be aware that coatings can account for up to one-third of the weight of the seed,” he says. “This can affect the number of seeds planted if the planter is set to plant seed on a weight basis. Seed coatings can also dramatically alter how the seed flows through the drill, so be sure to calibrate the drill or planter with the seed being planted. The recommended seeding depth for forages is ¼ to ½ inch deep. It is better to err on the side of planting shallow rather than too deep.”

To read more tips for reseeding an alfalfa field this time of year, click here. 

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

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