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University of Minnesota Extension

Alfalfa establishment: Steps to maximize yield

What you need to know

  • Select fields with deep, well-drained soils.

  • Annually sample soils to mitigate soil nutrient deficiencies.

  • Spring seed in clod-free, smooth yet firm seedbeds with at least 13 pounds of seed per acre.

  • Plant seeds no more than a half-inch deep.

Because alfalfa production spans several years, it’s important to start off with the most productive stands possible. Here, we’ll cover six management strategies for optimal alfalfa establishment:

  • Field selection.

  • Fertility management.

  • Seeding dates.

  • Field preparations and seeders.

  • Seeding depth.

  • Seed-to-soil contact.

  • Seeding rates.

In addition, it’s important to select alfalfa varieties that have adequate fall dormancy and disease resistances, and purchase high-quality, pure alfalfa seed.

Alfalfa in Minnesota


Management practices

The University of Minnesota Alfalfa Variety Trials follow these guidelines, which have ensured optimal yield year after year.


M. Samantha Wells, Extension agronomist; Doug Holen, former Extension educator and Craig Sheaffer, agronomist, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Reviewed in 2018

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