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How drought hardy is alfalfa?

Daver

PMA Member
I planted alfalfa last year for the first time. I only put in an acre or so, and I planted it about this time last year. Even though the field was new last year, the tender alfalfa was quite popular with the local herd last fall and then again this spring. I mowed it once earlier this spring and everything was looking good...until it basically didn't rain for 2 months.

The last time I looked at it right around July 4th, it was apparently dead to the world, brown as toast. My question is...is it time to replant or might it spring back to life this fall once we get some rains on it?

I am trying to determine if I should start over on it or if I will be OK just letting it ride. I don't know from experience how alfalfa does in response to drought. TIA for any advice.
 

arm

Leg
I thought it was very tolerant to dry conditions based on the fact that it was the only thing green this summer around here. I really don't know though
 
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Oct-Lull

Well-Known Member
IS it yellow and brown and still soft or is it crispy and dry? I have only had experience with winterkill never had it die off due to drought. It will go dormant, That being said it does well in lower wet areas and doesn't grow well in thin soil because lack of moisture, so......
 

Daver

PMA Member
IS it yellow and brown and still soft or is it crispy and dry? I have only had experience with winterkill never had it die off due to drought. It will go dormant, That being said it does well in lower wet areas and doesn't grow well in thin soil because lack of moisture, so......

When I last saw it in early July, I would say crispy and dry.
 

Sligh1

Administrator
Staff member
Alfalfa is one of the most drought tolerant legumes. Roots go down DEEP. Other issue is soil type & fertility- which- a lot to that. Alfalfa is fussier on ph, bugs, micronutrients & soil type than clover. One example I can try and imagine up.... root system not gettting down deep enough due to hard pan or something with soil that wasn't ideal for alfalfa. Check ph, add Boron to ur fertilizer, make sure plenty p&k.
Basically - normally, should not have died from drought but I suppose with how bad this drought got - anyhing is possible. See if comes back with rain. If not- can add clover or whatever to it. Or- if u want alfalfa again, can make sure it's killed off and try it again another season after u rotate it out and back in then. And after checking into making sure soil is in good shape for alfalfa.
 

Rutcon

RUT247
Alfalfa is one of the most drought tolerant legumes. Roots go down DEEP. Other issue is soil type & fertility- which- a lot to that. Alfalfa is fussier on ph, bugs, micronutrients & soil type than clover. One example I can try and imagine up.... root system not gettting down deep enough due to hard pan or something with soil that wasn't ideal for alfalfa. Check ph, add Boron to ur fertilizer, make sure plenty p&k.
Basically - normally, should not have died from drought but I suppose with how bad this drought got - anyhing is possible. See if comes back with rain. If not- can add clover or whatever to it. Or- if u want alfalfa again, can make sure it's killed off and try it again another season after u rotate it out and back in then. And after checking into making sure soil is in good shape for alfalfa.
I planted alfalfa last year for the first time. I only put in an acre or so, and I planted it about this time last year. Even though the field was new last year, the tender alfalfa was quite popular with the local herd last fall and then again this spring. I mowed it once earlier this spring and everything was looking good...until it basically didn't rain for 2 months.

The last time I looked at it right around July 4th, it was apparently dead to the world, brown as toast. My question is...is it time to replant or might it spring back to life this fall once we get some rains on it?

I am trying to determine if I should start over on it or if I will be OK just letting it ride. I don't know from experience how alfalfa does in response to drought. TIA for any advice.

Good alfalfa is a maintenance monster as Skip implied. Ours was super dried up and slightly browned in July and first half of August due to hot dry conditions and leaf hopper burn. I have sprayed for hoppers twice this year, they are horrible little bastards suck the life out of the plants. We got 4" out of 3 rains over the past 2 weeks and it has greened right up again. Super drought tolerant plant without bug pressure.
 

Oct-Lull

Well-Known Member
We fall plow a portion of ours each year to rotate. We chisel plow is deep and turn the roots over. Every year that stuff greens back up in the spring, have to dig it 2+3 times and spray. If I left it alone it would green right back up and start growing again. Cutting alfalfa is a big deal. If it's clean 3-4 times or every 28-30 days. It's better for it to be cut and start regrowth than the let it get old. Also the longer it is left the more likely leaf hoppers will get to it and they will literally eat it away. Like I said before, ice layer in the winter I have seen kill it, but nothing else. Maintain, maintain, maintain. I would have someone harvest it off if it's more than a couple acres. Thatch layer isn't great for it either.
 

Daver

PMA Member
We fall plow a portion of ours each year to rotate. We chisel plow is deep and turn the roots over. Every year that stuff greens back up in the spring, have to dig it 2+3 times and spray. If I left it alone it would green right back up and start growing again. Cutting alfalfa is a big deal. If it's clean 3-4 times or every 28-30 days. It's better for it to be cut and start regrowth than the let it get old. Also the longer it is left the more likely leaf hoppers will get to it and they will literally eat it away. Like I said before, ice layer in the winter I have seen kill it, but nothing else. Maintain, maintain, maintain. I would have someone harvest it off if it's more than a couple acres. Thatch layer isn't great for it either.

Thanks for the advice...sounds like it is more hardy than I thought. I will see it this weekend and take action accordingly.
 

Daver

PMA Member
FYI...I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to see the alfalfa that I was referring to at the start of this thread...it was bright green and looked fairly healthy. Although things are still quite dry around here, we have had 3 nice rains in the last 2 weeks and that must have been enough to boost the alfalfa back to life. (My clover fields also looked fair to good, which was better than expected.)

I agree with whoever posted above that alfalfa is very drought hardy. FWIW.
 

Blackdog1960

New Member
Sounds like it just went dormant. Be sure to get the nutrients,ie fertilizer etc to it early next spring. I lost an entire alfalfa hay field planted early this year. Looked awesome and then....no rain. Its going to beans next season.
 
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