Evaluating Thin Alfalfa Stands

By: Chris Basham


What to look for??

Slow green-up

The most obvious indication of winter injury is slow green-up. Compare other stands in your area and on similar soils to evaluate the timing of green-up. If stand takes longer to green-up , it’s time to check for injury.

Budding growth pattern

Spring buds are formed in the fall of the year. If there is injury to alfalfa’s roots, only the living portion of the crown will produce new shoots. The new shoots will emerge early and winter-killed buds will be replaced by new shoots in the spring. This could cause asymmetrical growth patterns resulting in shoots of different lengths on the same plant causing the field to look uneven.

Root Damage

Examine roots at 4 to 6 inches deep. Healthy roots will be firm and white in color. If after the first thaw, winter injured roots will have a grayish, water-soaked look. Once water has left the root, the tissue becomes brown, dehydrated and stringy.

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