Along the Fencerow

The first week of April brings on the anticipation for farmers to work the soil to plant their spring crops. One crop in particular that shows profitability year after year is alfalfa.

April is a preferred month for seeding alfalfa in the spring. Waiting until May can create a problem if we suffer dry conditions early. The earlier alfalfa is seeded, the bigger and stronger the plants become when we hit the dry, hot, windy conditions in the summer.

Spring is associated with more timely rainfall than in the fall. But in the fall, we see gentler rain coming down than in the spring. We’ve seen exceptions to this since 1997, though. Heavy rains each fall totaling 4 to 9 inches or more have been common.

A well-prepared seedbed with high phosphorus levels, good calcium or pH levels, and adequate potassium is important. In selecting the seed, pay attention to factors such as disease and insect tolerance, fall dormancy ratings, and relative feed values. Tonnage is important, but sometimes it could be overrated.

If the field is clean without tilling the ground, seeding the alfalfa no-till may be an option.

On conventional-till fields where pre-emergent weed control is planned, some possibilities include: Treflan, Eptam, or Balan to control annual grasses and pigweeds.

For post-emergent control, a farmer may use Buctril, Poast Plus, Select, Raptor, Pursuit or Butyrac 200 to control certain broadleafs. Either Raptor or Pursuit may be applied to control broadleaf and grass weeds in alfalfa.

To be sure what weeds these chemicals control weeds, look them up in the 2003 Chemical Weed Control guide that K-State Extension publishes each year. It is a good, quick reference for farmers.

Prior to seeding any alfalfa, be sure to take a soil test and know what was applied to that field in previous years. Alfalfa can be sensitive to some chemicals that contain certain residual properties.

Bradley Goering can be reached by e-mail at, or by telephone at 620-327-4941.

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