Alfalfa Variety Portfolio  11/27/18 3:13:42 PM



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Alfalfa Basics


  • Alfalfa is a tap-rooted perennial legume.
  • It is very productive, drought-tolerant, widely adapted, and is the second most commonly planted forage legume in the world.

Best Uses:

  • Dry hay and haylage production, grazing, soil-building plowdown.


  • Best performance on well-drained soils with a pH of 6.8 – 7.5.
  • Deep-rooted and very drought-tolerant once established.
  • Not well-adapted to poorly-drained or acidic soils.

Management considerations:

  • Pasturing livestock on alfalfa must be managed to prevent bloat.
  • Final cutting should be taken 6 weeks before killing frost.

Planting Dates:

  • Early to late spring, late summer.
  • (In southern MN: April 1 – May 15, August 15 - Sept. 1)

Seeding Recommendations:

  • Drill ¼ - ¾ inches deep in a well-prepared seedbed. Can be broadcast or bulk-spread and rolled in. Do not drag deeply.
  • A cover crop of oats, barley, wheat, or Italian Ryegrass is often used.
  • To maximize establishment and productivity, either bale the cover crop or straight seed the alfalfa.

Seeding Rate: 15 -18 lbs./acre alone. 2 – 14 lbs. in mixtures.

Seeds per Pound: 227,000

Feed quality of alfalfa harvested as haylage or hay depends, to a great extent, on the maturity of the stand. With increased maturity, plant structural carbohydrates increase. These fiber fractions represent the indigestible parts of the plant. As a result, digestibility and energy obtained through fermentation decrease with maturity. Harvest pre-bloom for optimum quality.


  • Direct-seeding grass and legumes produces a forage crop more quickly than using a small grain as a nurse crop.
  • In a dry spring, a grass/legume mix can be hurt by the small grain sucking up available moisture and out-competing your under-seeding.
  • A good alternative to oats is to use Italian Ryegrass at a rate of 4 lbs./acre as a nurse crop and increase your seeding year tonnage by as much as ½ ton per acre.
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