Forage Legume Seed
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Alfalfa is a high yielding crop that grows in the warm and cool season. It has a high feed value and provides around 18% protein with relatively high levels of calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium. Alfalfa is a deep rooted legume that requires inoculation that allows it to produce its own nitrogen. Poor nodulation occurs at low pH or low molybdenum levels, or with improper inoculation. Molybdenum is more available at higher pHs and agricultural lime typically solves the problem problem of poor nodulation in our area. Alfalfa prefers a pH of 6.4 to 6.8. Boron is typically applied annually to the crop. One ton of alfalfa requires 15lb of phosphate, 60lb of potassium, 2lb per of boron, and 100lb of lime. Soil tests should be done in advance so that yields don't suffer. It is often recommended to apply lime and fertilizer after the last cutting in the fall. It can be done before growth begin the next spring.
For more successful stands with better longevity, prepare the soil 18 months early to allow the soil to reach equilibrium for pH and phosphate level. Plowing the lime in 12" would be ideal to give seedlings a better root zone pH to allow for deeper early rooting to give the plant more moisture during dry periods. The recommendations for establishment in Virginia include a target pH of 6.8 with fertilizer on a medium level soil of 0 units of nitrogen, 130 units of phosphate, and 130 units of potassium.
Maintenance fertilizer recommendations have a target pH of 6.8 with a fertilizer application of 0 units of nitrogen, 50 units of phosphate, and 175 units of potassium on soils with a medium fertility level with a yield grade 3. The recommendation when you move that to a higher yield expectation, a yield grade 2, would be 0 units of nitrogen, 80 units of phosphate, and 245 units of potassium. These recommendations are annual applications but the application can be split during the year if desired. Boron will be required when soil levels are below 1ppm with a maximum of 5lb of Boron per acre per year. Molybdenum will be recommended when soil pH is less than 5.8.
Alfalfa prefers deep, well drained and fertile soil. Alfalfa should be planted at 20lb to 25lb per acre for pure stands and 10lb to 15lb in mixtures. Weed control is important during establishment. When alfalfa is mixed with grasses, the stand requires more potassium (potash) because of competition, and weed control can be more difficult. Mixed stands are better established by first seeding and establishing the alfalfa and then no-tilling the grass into the stand later in the year or the following season.
Alfalfa takes more management that most forage crops. Common weeds that trouble alfalfa include: chickweed, henbit, pigweed, labsquarter, curly dock, mustards, and grasses. Round Up Ready varieties greatly reduce the cost of weed control. Good weed control and fertility will greatly improve stand longevity. Diseases that affect alfalfa include bacterial wilt, leaf spot, anthracnose and phythora. Diseases are more likely to become a case if the plant has been stressed from winter injury, poor fertility, or insect damage. Variety selection and good management practices can help to prevent diseases. Insect control is another big issue with alfalfa. The alfalfa weevil and potato leafhopper are the major pests. Others include aphids, grasshoppers, meadow spittle bugs, clover root curculios, blister beetles and three cornered alfalfa hoppers. Variety selection can aid in preventing damage by certain insects.
The first cutting hay should be done when alfalfa is in the bud stage, this will be the highest nutrient value for the year. The follow up cuttings should be done when flowers begin to show up. This will allow for higher yields while still having good quality. This stage also allows the plant to store reserves to maintain the stand. Allow 35 days between cuttings.
Red clover is the most common clover used in hay fields because of it is tall growing for clover types. Red clover can also be an important pasture legume. This type of clover is biennial and must be re-seeded every two or three years. It should be broadcast at a rate of 8lb to 12lb per acre and drilled at a rate of 6lb to 8lb per acre. It is best adapted to medium fertility soils with a pH range of 6 to 7. It is easy to establish, often frost seeded in February. Red clover has good drought tolerance because of its taproot. Red clover has the ability to re-seed itself but can be inconsistent because of environmental pressures like insects and disease.
Red clover should be cut in early bloom while it is leafy and will be high in energy (TDN) and protein. Early removal reduces competition for companion grasses and increases regrowth. If harvested in late bloom, the plant will have lost the bottom leaves reducing yield and will have become stemmy, with a lower nutritional value.
Red Clover Seed
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