• Apr 11, 2023

3 Ways To Make Alfalfa Management More Efficient

Aside from being a profitable forage crop, alfalfa offers many benefits, including improved soil health and nitrogen credits. It does, however, require a decent amount of time and labor in-season. To help identify opportunities for efficiency, we talked with two alfalfa experts for advice. 

1. Adjust Your Equipment

The drying and curing process is one of the most important aspects of alfalfa management. To help your freshly mowed alfalfa cure more rapidly, America's Alfalfa Account Manager Matt Minnes recommends increasing your swath width.
“A wider swath allows the alfalfa hay to capture more sunlight on an expanded forage surface area, which helps speed up drying time,” explained Minnes. 
Research also supports this method. A study from the University of Wisconsin compared the drying time of forage placed in a wide swath (72% of cut width) to forage placed in a narrow swath (25% of cut width). Alfalfa in the wide swath reached 20% moisture at the end of the day after mowing, whereas alfalfa that was placed in a narrow swath did not reach 20% moisture until the third day.1
America’s Alfalfa National Account Manager Phil Bollman also recommends minding your cutting height to help keep your field activities on schedule.
“If you mow too low, you get more trash and dirt in the windrow, which reduces hay quality. Plus, if there are rocks in the field or the ground is uneven, it can also damage the equipment, causing delays and costing you money in repairs,” shared Bollman.

2. Invest in High-Quality Traits and Genetics

Today’s advanced traits allow enhanced weed control, disease protection and harvest flexibility – all of which can help relieve pressure during the season.
“In general, if you choose higher yielding, higher quality varieties, you’ll typically have a cleaner stand. The Roundup Ready® alfalfa trait is the best way to get that stand off to the right start,” advised Bollman.
Roundup Ready varieties provide alfalfa growers an additional tool to help increase yield potential and simplify weed management. Plus, the combination of Roundup Ready with the proven Traffic Tested® genetics, available only from America’s Alfalfa, makes producing high-yielding, high-quality forage with fewer weeds easier and more convenient.
HarvXtra® alfalfa brings unparalleled flexibility to your cutting schedule. Instead of planning your life around your alfalfa, you’ll have the freedom to cut when it works with your schedule without worrying about losing forage quality or yield potential.
Finally, the UltraCut disease package helps protect your crop against expensive, evolving Anthracnose and Aphanomyces disease strains with one of the industry’s leading resistance packages.
“In 2021, we had a very wet July mid-summer, which isn’t typical here in central Indiana. We saw the UltraCut varieties really stand out with their Anthracnose protection. Many competitors’ alfalfa fields were getting hammered with disease but America’s Alfalfa varieties AmeriStand 428TQ and AmeriStand 481 HVXRR held strong,” explained Minnes. “There were measurable tonnage differences between UltraCut and non-UltraCut varieties.”

3. Plan For Rain

“Have a method ready to put up your forage at a higher moisture. For example, wrapping your hay for baleage or chopping it for haylage. I see that benefit growers here in the Midwest who may be tight on time or have a rain event coming. If they can get it down to 40-60% moisture and then wrap it or chop it, they still have a valuable product to sell,” said Minnes.
The HarvXtra trait can also help you manage around rain. With these varieties, you can delay harvest for up to 10 days without sacrificing quality and may even increase tonnage while you’re at it.
Raising and managing an alfalfa crop requires unique skills and strategies, but the perennial crop provides agronomic and animal nutrition benefits that simply can’t be beat. For more guidance on alfalfa management or trait selection, contact your local America’s Alfalfa dealer.
1 8 trials, UW Arlington & Marshfield, 2005-2007.
© 2023 Forage Genetics International, LLC. America’s Alfalfa®, Traffic Tested®, HarvXtra® and UltraCut are registered trademarks of Forage Genetics International, LLC. Roundup Ready® is a registered trademark of Monsanto Technology LLC, used under license by Forage Genetics International, LLC. HarvXtra® Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology is subject to planting and use restrictions. Visit ForageGenetics.com/legal for the full legal, stewardship and trademark statements for these products.