Slow Alfalfa Recovery
It’s early July. You’ve cut alfalfa, it has good soil moisture, but it’s not growing very fast and looks a little weak. What’s wrong.
It’s a common problem this year. And there probably are multiple reasons for the sluggish growth. Let’s begin with the usual suspects. Is soil pH low so alfalfa roots don’t form many nodules to supply nitrogen? Do you have enough phosphorus? Was your alfalfa stressed this spring by leaf diseases? And what about potato leafhoppers right now?
All these could be contributing to slow alfalfa growth, but don’t forget about another very important factor – how often and frequently you harvest your alfalfa.
Now maybe you are thinking ‘I haven’t harvested much differently this year compared to any other year. So that can’t be why my alfalfa is growing slowly’. But – don’t forget about the hard freezes your alfalfa experienced around the Easter weekend in early April. That freeze killed off most of the top growth that already had accumulated, essentially acting exactly like a harvest. So as far as your alfalfa is concerned, you’ve taken one extra harvest already this year!
Now the slow growth begins to make sense. Add the stress caused by an extra harvest to the reasons mentioned earlier or other factors not mentioned and it makes sense that alfalfa would grow slowly.
To get you alfalfa back on track, give it a couple extra weeks of growth between harvests sometime this summer. The extra recovery time will rebuild alfalfa growing ability and relieve you of some needless worry.
[June 29th, 2007]
Dr. Bruce Anderson, Professor of Agronomy
Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Lincoln, NE