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Taking a Look at Alfalfa

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
April 5, 2017         
Source:  Dan Martens, Extension Educator
        University of Minnesota Extension
        Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties


Taking a Look at Alfalfa
By Dan Martens, University of Minnesota Extension

FOLEY, Minn. (03/31/17) — Farmer and agronomy advisors continue to watch alfalfa fields to see how well they came through the winter. Here are some observations from digging out a few roots in a field near Foley on March 31.

Some roots were firm with nice color. These will probably be OK.

Some roots (like the one in the picture-if used) had a more tan colored area for about 2 inches below the crown Some of these were getting soft, and juice could be squeezed from this part of the root. Fibrous strands would separate easily when the root was twisted. These plants will likely be lost. The root below this area was firm with more normal color.

Some roots were a little off-color, but still pretty firm. They might be OK; or they might decay further and be lost. This will be more obvious next week or two with warmer weather. With further decay, you might find that the outside layer of the root rubs loose pretty easily. 

There is probably a lot of variability around the area with how soils are warming up and drying out based on soil conditions, old crop residue, north/south slopes, low spots, varieties and other factors. Your past experience counts a lot. Be thoughtful and patient. Sometimes roots turn soft and decay and dead plants are quite obvious. Sometimes alfalfa will grow to be 4 to 6 inches and before they give up. Sometimes fall growth buds were damaged and it takes an extra time to get going once things warm up nicely.

Plants that are 3 to 4 years old or older can have a fairly prominent brown core with enough firm tissue around the core to grow fine. You can expect that on older plants, as normal wear and tear from harvest, wheel traffic and other damage. The dark brown core you see now is NOT from injury during this past winter.

Internet users can find more information by doing a search for “Minnesota Extension Forage Production” and looking under the “Growth and Development” tab. You’re welcome to call with questions or information that might be useful.

In Stearns County call 255-6169 if a local call to St. Cloud or 1-800-450-6171; in Benton call 968-5077 if a local call to Foley or 800-964-4929; and in Morrison call 632-0161 if a local call to Little Falls or 1-866-401-1111.

PHOTO:  Alfalfa Root Damage


Daniel Martens
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems
(320) 968-5077
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