Wet springs have created many challenges for alfalfa growers around the country during recent years.

"Really wet conditions the last few years have created problems in first cutting alfalfa quality and created a lot of wet and saline spots in fields," said Eric Mousel, forage and alfalfa specialist for Millborn Seeds, Brookings, S.D.

Adjusted production practices and variety selection can have a huge impact on the success of alfalfa production. Each variety has a set of circumstances or cultural situations under which it can reach optimum performance.

As a rule, alfalfa removes 15-20 pounds of phosphorous, 60-70 pounds of potassium and one-half pound of boron per ton of dry hay produced and removed, notes Kentucky American Seeds, Inc. “Maintenance applications should be split and applied after first and third cuttings,” the seed company explains.

Soil testing is key for keeping soil in condition for best results in growing alfalfa. “Alfalfa needs soil pH in a range from 6.5 to 7.2 to maximize establishment and production,” the Kentucky seed company contends. “Fields requiring lime to meet these requirements need to be limed 18 to 24 months ahead of alfalfa establishment.  Medium high to high levels of phosphorous and potash are needed for optimum production and continued growth.”

Wet soils also encourage soil diseases that will attack alfalfa, and again variety selection means a lot so that alfalfa stands will be strong during a three-year period.  

Mousel, along with cover crop specialist, Justin Fruechte are addressing forage issues and sharing management practices and products that will help forage producers overcome challenges and maximize yields during free forage and cover crop workshops Millborn Seeds is hosting throughout South Dakota beginning Jan. 24.

Such workshops would be helpful for alfalfa producers and those feeding alfalfa in all the major alfalfa producing states so that livestock and forage producers have clear understanding of the forage products available to them today, their advantages and disadvantages, and how they can implement them into their forage systems for optimal success.

Additionally, cover crop understanding is an important topic for recent changing agricultural production practices that might be necessary. Many farmers need to learn how to make cover crops work for them.

"Cover crops are a big buzz word in the agriculture community right now, and likely will continue to be for some time; however, the real value of cover crops, benefits, types and species is often poorly understood," Fruechte said.

Again the Millborn workshop topics that will be covered during its three-hour workshops provide an example that retailers elsewhere might consider. Topics include understanding the cover crop buzz, salt tolerant alfalfa, maximizing feed crop acres for cows, extending the grazing season, winning the first-cutting alfalfa battle and replacing commercial supplements with alfalfa.

For South Dakotans wanting more information about the Milborn meetings can contact Justin Fruechte at justinf@millbornseeds.com or Eric Mousel at ericm@millbornseeds.com; or call 605-697-6306.