Home Crop Monitoring Skip the nurse crop for alfalfa establishment

Skip the nurse crop for alfalfa establishment

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When establishing alfalfa there’s a key choice to make — ought to the forage be under-seeded to an annual crop?

Generally known as a companion or nurse crop, consultants say, as a substitute, that annual crop acts extra like competitors than a companion.

Ashley Knapton, dairy strategic account supervisor with Corteva, says {that a} nurse crop attracts on related assets as the hay discipline and there’s solely a lot water and vitamins to go round.

“Last year in eastern Ontario is a prime example. We are going to see sub par hay fields (this year) because they faced higher drought stress in the establishing year with that nurse crop, and that nurse crop didn’t even really provide that much yield to make it worthwhile,” she says.

One other consideration is that a nurse crop can disguise some points, together with leafhoppers that might blow in, or poor germination of the forage seedlings.

Alfalfa or any perennial forage fields are going to be sticking round for a number of years — go away the competitors out of it and let the alfalfa win the race with ease, Knapton says.

Peter Johnson, resident agronomist for RealAgriculture, agrees.

“A ‘nurse crop’ does NOT nurse the under seeding; it competes with it,” he says.

It’s true that the companion crop provides some weed suppression, stopping some weed species from going to seed, and a reduce of oat/pea baleage in the establishment 12 months looks as if a optimistic.

“To the alfalfa plant, though, the companion crop was the weed. And most of the time that just means less alfalfa established moving forward,” Johnson says.

Johnson provides that some growers are discovering that the higher job performed at establishing the forage crop means these weeds are reduce in the first harvest, and are much less of a difficulty than first thought.

Seeding with a companion crop additionally makes seeding depth harder. The oat and pea crop wants to enter moisture, which could be 1.5” deep, however alfalfa seed must say shallow — at a half-inch deep or much less. You’ll be able to’t hit each proper in the identical go.

“If growers really need that early forage, I understand why they under seed. Plus there are years where getting the alfalfa to establish can be a challenge, and oat peas are almost “never fail.” Nevertheless, if you need a three-year stand, you’re at all times approach forward of direct seeding.

“Control the weeds, keep on top of leafhopper, harvest big hays yields moving forward. And grow cereal rye after your silage to fill that early forage need,” Johnson provides.


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