Spring cereals in alfalfa

Have you noticed any winter injury to your alfalfa fields, or maybe you have some older stands that are thin?

Maximizing tonnage from every inch of rain your alfalfa hay fields receive this year may be necessary. Unfortunately, alfalfa uses quite a bit of water for each ton of hay, especially as temperatures rise. So, it is critical to get as much tonnage out of the first cutting as possible, before summer heat sets in.

One way to boost first cutting hay yield from thin or winter-damaged alfalfa stands is to drill cereals like oats, spring triticale or spring barley into those stands. Depending on the thickness of the alfalfa stand, drill 30 to 60 pounds per acre directly into your existing stand as soon as possible. These cereals will use spring moisture very efficiently to add tonnage to your first cutting.

Where the alfalfa is thick, you may not get much, but in thin spots these cereals should fill in rapidly. These spring cereals will have rapid growth in late May and early June, so cutting your hay a little later than usual will help you get the most yield benefit from this addition.

Besides the small grains, annual or Italian ryegrass is another option to increase hay yield. For these, a seeding rate of 5 to 12 pounds per acre is adequate.

Getting the most out of each inch of moisture could be especially important this year.