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Growing Hay - Alfalfa

 
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Location: Quad CIties Iowa/Illinois
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 I am attempting to establish Alfalfa in a pasture that has a serious weed problem.  The field is a pasture that was overgrazed and let the weeds get established and outcompete.  There is fescue established, but by June the broad leave weeds dominate.  The local farmers say nuke it with roundup and start from scratch, but my gut says this is the wrong play.  Any suggestions are welcome.  Do I just need to keep cutting it for a year so the weeds cannot reseed and the fescue and alfalfa can re-assert?  I'm not trying for pure Alfalfa, just to eliminate the broad leaf weeds and get a decent grass mix that can be grazed or hayed.
 
pollinator
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What are the broadleafed weeds? what exactly they are will depend on how you can manage them.
 
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Is the field fenced? if so are you able to put some cows on it? If you have something to keep the grass/weeds down that may help in the long term. I have been haying my field for 7 years now, it went from a nearly burnt out hay field to a decent field where I am able to get around 250 small bales off it and have cows on it for 3-4 months. I have watched it going from sparce grass to more of a clover mix over the years without seeding it or doing anything but grazing and haying it.
 
Josh Brueggen
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grazing is the long term plan, but for now I lack the livestock.  The field is somewhat fenced, and I'll have to bulk those up eventually, so maybe start with that.  The big lack is a water source on the field, thats part of why I was thinking. to ut this field in hay for 5-7 years and develop pastures with access to water first.
 
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If it has alfalfa in it already the new seed will not germinate well.  We usually will grow corn, then sorghum and then back to alfalfa.  I would check the ph and adjust if needed.  Alfalfa seems to like a higher ph.  After mowing hay 2 weeks ago the dry ground only let the alfalfa come back with its deep roots.  We do get some winters here that it will pull the alfalfa out of the ground with freeze and thaw and kill it, so we leave it long in the fall.
 
Josh Brueggen
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Christopher Shepherd wrote:If it has alfalfa in it already the new seed will not germinate well.  We usually will grow corn, then sorghum and then back to alfalfa.  I would check the ph and adjust if needed.  Alfalfa seems to like a higher ph.  After mowing hay 2 weeks ago the dry ground only let the alfalfa come back with its deep roots.  We do get some winters here that it will pull the alfalfa out of the ground with freeze and thaw and kill it, so we leave it long in the fall.



location is SE missouri.  I drilled vernal alfalfa this spring after burning.  I was hoping it would establish before the broad leaves got ahead of it, but no luck.  I think I will try justmowins it a few tims this summer and see what happens.  At worst it should knock back the weeds and favor the grass getting hold.  I'm thinking to lay t down with a sickle bar and let it be.  the alfalfa is there and still short, hopefully the weeds will dry out before they smother the alfalfa....thoughts?
 
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Hi Josh,

I saw a noticeable decrease in weeds by just mowing the hayfield a few times per year for a couple of years, leaving the hay and weeds to decompose. It both improved the soil and prevented the weeds from reseeding.

That said, it is a slow way to go if you aren’t adding some other form of fertility, preferably manure of some kind. Also, I don’t have alfalfa, so I am not sure how it would impact the alfalfa.

Maybe try mowing a few times this summer, and then drill again in the fall to improve your establishment for next year?
 
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I read in the book "Iverch und Unter" the best time to mow perennial weeds is in July. The first half of the season, the roots feed the greens. Then when the days start shortening, the greens feed the roots. Mowing in July stresses the plant as much as possible by depleting it's roots' energy reserves and not allowing them to replenish properly. Makes sense to me, though I suspect some weeds may be too hearty to succumb in one application.
 
Josh Brueggen
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Jordan Holland wrote:I read in the book "Iverch und Unter" the best time to mow perennial weeds is in July. The first half of the season, the roots feed the greens. Then when the days start shortening, the greens feed the roots. Mowing in July stresses the plant as much as possible by depleting it's roots' energy reserves and not allowing them to replenish properly. Makes sense to me, though I suspect some weeds may be too hearty to succumb in one application.



I am of the same understanding though it varies by variety.  canadian thistle, or which I have plenty in one area is mid-late June I have read.
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