is part of the Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

  • American Agriculturist
  • Beef Producer
  • Corn and Soybean Digest
  • Dakota Farmer
  • Delta Farm Press
  • Farm Futures
  • Farm Industry news
  • Indiana Prairie Farmer
  • Kansas Farmer
  • Michigan Farmer
  • Missouri Ruralist
  • Nebraska Farmer
  • Ohio Farmer
  • Prairie Farmer
  • Southeast Farm Press
  • Southwest Farm Press
  • The Farmer
  • Wallaces Farmer
  • Western Farm Press
  • Western Farmer Stockman
  • Wisconsin Agriculturist
tractor in alfalfa field
TIME TO ROTATE: One guideline says older, dryland fields with 25 or more shoots coming from two or more plants per square foot are worth saving.

Time to rotate alfalfa fields?

Consider age of the stand, number of shoots from plants and weed density.

How do you decide when one alfalfa field has run out of steam and a new one needs to be planted? Here are some things to look for.

One obvious answer is when the stand gets too thin, but what is too thin? One guideline uses the density of alfalfa shoots and plants. Older, dryland fields should have 25 or more shoots coming from two or more plants per square foot to be worth saving. Irrigated fields need 40 shoots from three or more plants. If your stand is thinner than these guidelines, look for somewhere to start a new field next spring.

Also look at weed density. Are your fields getting weedier each year? Are many of the problems perennial plants like bluegrass, dock or dandelions? If so, your alfalfa stand may lack the vigor or density needed to compete. A new field should be considered.

Alfalfa stands can last a long time, but just because a stand is thick and weeds aren’t a problem doesn’t mean you should keep the field another year.

This is especially true for many older dryland fields. Once dryland fields exhaust all available subsoil moisture, yields drop even though stands may remain thick. In these fields, yield is limited to only what annual rainfall can support. Many dryland fields reach this stage after four or five years. Rotating to a new field can provide a fresh source of deep subsoil moisture.

Also, remember that the crop following alfalfa in that field will get some free nitrogen as well as a rotation-based yield boost. Rotating alfalfa through your fields just a little more frequently will give them a boost more often.

Anderson is a Nebraska Extension forage specialist. This report comes from UNL CropWatch.

TAGS: Livestock
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.