Stand Establishment and Reading the Stand

Equipment planning and attention to detail can help provide the ideal seedbed for alfalfa.

Plant into a firm seedbed to control seed depth. Planting into a loose seedbed often allows seeds to end up at varying depths,resulting in uneven stands. Avoid surface application unless follow-up packing is performed.

Regardless of equipment (airflow, drill or Brillion-type seeders), control depth and ensure proper seed-to-soil contact. Planting rates do not need to be adjusted for coated seed. The planting rate for alfalfa varies from region to region, but generally 18 to 20 lbs/A is recommended.

Alfalfa seed that is 34 percent coating by weight, including components or ingredients:

  • 225,000 seeds/lb raw
  • 150,000 seeds/lb coated (approx.)
  • At 20 lbs/A rate is 3,000,000 seeds/A divided by 43,560 sq ft/A = 70 seeds/sq ft
  • Goal: 30+ plants within 30 days of seeding
Seed-to-soil contact is crucial. Water must leave the soil particle and enter the seed coat before the tiny seed can germinate. Press wheel drills, cultipackers or other roller-type devices help increase seed-to soil contact and can increase the number of seedlings that germinate and become established plants.

Summer-Seeded Alfalfa

Slightly increase seeding depth to reduce the risk of seeds/seedlings running out of moisture. In most regions, rainfall is limited and soil temperature is higher, which dries the surface quickly after each rain. Weeds can also be an issue with summer-seeded alfalfa. Winter annuals and volunteer wheat can be easily controlled with
the Genuity®  Roundup Ready®  Alfalfa system. 

Coated Seed

Coating helps improve stand establishment and can increase seed efficiency. The most critical time for long-term stand productivity occurs within the first 30 days after seeding.

Alfalfa seedling comparison between advanced and standard seed treatmentsAn excellent coated seed option to help get plants off to a fast, healthy start is GroZone® plus Advanced Coating® Zn 34% seed, which contains:

  • Nitrogen-fixing rhizobium bacteria.
  • Micronutrient package with zinc and manganese.
  • Apron XL®  fungicide to help protect seedlings from root diseases such as phytophthora during stand establishment.
  • Ascend®  plant growth regulator to help promote early seedling growth.
  • Stamina®  fungicide to provide additional protection to multiple races of Aphanomyces root rot disease. Available on select products, in specified regions. 

Alfalfa seedling comparison of fungicide treatmentsWet Spring Conditions

Wet spring conditions can make establishing a stand more difficult. It may be necessary to use Stamina® fungicide seed treatment to promote early plant health. Stamina® fungicide is now available in the GroZone®  plus Advanced Coating®  Zn package. Stamina®  fungicide seed treatment can provide effective protection against multiple races of Aphanomyces during early stand establishment.

Aphanomyces and phytophthora can be damaging seedling diseases under wetter soil conditions, significantly reducing alfalfa stand establishment. Using Stamina® and Apron XL® fungicide seed treatments together can provide maximum protection against many early seedling root diseases. 

Grozone® Plus Advanced Coating® ZN

Grozone® Plus Advanced Coating® ZN aids in producing strong, healthy seedlings for high-yielding alfalfa stands.

              Alfalfa seed diagram with Stamina and Apron XL fungicide coating

            CROPLAN alfalfa coating options table

Reading The Stand

Evaluate alfalfa stem density to determine current productivity potential, and root health to determine future yield potential.

Stem and plant density table for evaluating alfalfa growth

Dig up several plants from different field locations, cut into the taproot and visually assess the plant according to the photo chart.

A healthy root will be firm and white or slightly yellow. Crown rot is present in the field if roots have dark brown areas extending down the center.

Consider replacing the stand if the average root score is 2 or 3. If higher, the stand should be replaced. Rotating the stand provides a benefit from alfalfa’s nitrogen credit between 80 and 120 units.

Alfalfa root health grading system

Alfalfa root and plant health decision tree