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

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Management practices

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

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M. Scott 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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