No-Tilling Alfalfa Takes Good Preparation, Management

Planning a year ahead, managing the previous crop’s residue and using a well-maintained no-till drill are some of the keys to vigorous no-till alfalfa stands.

No-tillers Jack Herricks and Justin Knopf may seem like they are worlds apart — Herricks farms in west central Wisconsin and Knopf in north central Kansas.

When it comes to no-tilling alfalfa, Herricks no-till drills alfalfa in the spring, while Knopf seeds 1,200 to 1,500 acres of alfalfa in late summer or early fall.

Every no-tiller needs to consider a number of things to ensure they successful- ly establish an alfalfa stand. Herricks and Knopf agree that you had better plan for a no-till alfalfa crop if you’re going to raise a good stand

“The alfalfa that we seeded this past spring, the pre-planning for that crop started in the spring of 2009,” says Herricks, a dairy farmer from Cashton, Wis.

1 Manage Residue.

If there’s one thing that can interfere with a good no-till stand, it’s residue from the previous year’s crop, both no-tillers say. For Herricks, residue management dictates the crop that he raises before alfalfa.

“Any acres that will be seeded to alfalfa the following year, we like to raise corn silage so we don’t have a lot of residue on the field,” says Herricks, who harvests nearly the entire corn plant for his 600 dairy cows and replacement heifers, thus leaving little corn-stalk residue to contend with.

Herricks says grain corn producers can cut corn stalks with a stalk chopper and then bale them for forage to remove excessive residue obstructions.

Knopf, who raises no-till wheat and alfalfa near Salina, Kan., almost always rotates out of…

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Darrell Bruggink

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