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All About Alfalfa

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Our alfalfa trials are almost ready for harvest. Let’s check in on them!

Right now, we have three separate trials for alfalfa going on at Farming Smarter. We’re researching how to best combat alfalfa weevil, the best time & product to desiccate alfalfa, and the effect of plant growth regulators on the crop.

Because alfalfa is a niche crop, there’s not much information available to producers looking to pick up seed alfalfa. Over the next three years, we will work alongside the Alfalfa Seed Commission to widen the scope of alfalfa agronomy with our plot work.

Plant Growth Regulation

When alfalfa grows, the heads get heavy and can pull the rest of the crop to the ground. When alfalfa falls like this, it can be missed during harvest leading to a weaker yield.

In our plant growth regulator trials, we aim to limit the growth of seed alfalfa stalks. By doing so, we will create shorter & stronger plant stalks that will not be missed during harvest. These improvements in harvest management should lead to a stronger yield.

We’re looking at the affects of three separate products on the crop. Right now, we’re seeing good results in one of the research trials. Near the middle of September, the plots will be harvested, and the yields will be compared.

Dealing With the Evil Weevil

The second research trial we’re doing is controlling the alfalfa weevil. Pest control can play a pivotal role in yield management. Right now, our weevil trial is roughly 80% complete.

Adult alfalfa weevil
Adult alfalfa weevil by Shelley Barkley

This year, we saw a month-long hatch which was longer than normal. We sprayed around mid-July, sweeping through at 4 days, 7 days, and 10 days after spraying. This way, we were able to cover the range of weevil maturity. We saw a lot of variability in the sweeps, seeing large counts of small larvae and adults.

This is our first year of hosting the trial at Farming Smarter, but the trial is part of a 4 year-long study with the University of Manitoba. We’re seeing trends that have remained constant over the previous years.

Our sweeps showed that the ASSAIL trial has done the best overall, with Silencer following closely behind. However, we’re waiting on harvest to confirm the results. This will allow us to see the statistical significance of the results.

Alfalfa Desiccation Timing & Products

Our final trial is focused on the desiccation of the plot. For this trial, we are comparing the efficacy & cost efficiency of commercial products & acetic acid. Starting today, we will be spraying our trials and spraying again over the next two weeks.

We will be recording the effects timing plays on the crops by examining it at early, normal, and late stages. Afterwards, trials will be sprayed at a regular interval of 10 days.

We will be testing to see if these products & their timing influence the harvest dates of alfalfa. Usually, harvesting the crop can extend into October. Currently, producers want to see earlier harvest times on these crops to avoid losing yield to weather activity, such as a snowstorm.

The products we will be testing are Reglone, LI700, HIActivate, and Acetic Acid.