Sneak Peek Into The 2019 Alfalfa Crop

Apr 10, 2019

Crown health critical for stand persistence

Alfalfa survives as a perennial by going dormant through the winter months. The crown of the alfalfa plant acts to ensure that the plant will be able to survive the winter and thrive during the upcoming season. The crown forms at the top of the alfalfa root system and has several key functions:

  • Carbohydrate reserve that provides energy to new alfalfa growth

  • Critical to survival of alfalfa plants

  • Indicator of overall stand health

Greater Crown Health =
Improved Stand Persistence

What does the 2019 Alfalfa crop look like?

How has the winter weather impacted the crown health and the overall health of the stand? We know that this winter has been riddled with ice and extreme weather. Thick enough ice accumulations can cause alfalfa plants to suer by limiting the ability of crowns to breathe. This results in a loss of vigor as we head in to spring regrowth.

In addition to winter weather, there are other conditions that you need to be aware of that could affect your 2019 alfalfa crop:

  • Wheel trac and harvest conditions in 2018

  • Date of final cutting in fall of 2018

  • Fall fertility program: potassium uptake and “winterization”

The best way to determine if the harsh winter conditions have impacted the vigor of your alfalfa stand is to get the spade out and evaluate crown health. Here are some tips for assessing your alfalfa stand this spring:

  • Look for uneven growth during early spring regrowth

  • Dig plants and split crowns to assess damages

  • Assess crown health score

  • Identify potential winterkill

  • Need to dig and evaluate to see what is happening below soil!

See chart below for evaluating alfalfa crown scores:.

Once your crown scores are at a rating of 3 or greater, you are giving up valuable yield. You can still raise alfalfa with a score of 3, but keep in mind that you will be giving up valuable tons along with quality. Besides the harsh winter conditions, other factors that can cause crown decay are: grazing, tillage, trac, and intensive cutting. The more the crown system is compromised, the less persistence you will see in your stand.

We encourage you to contact your nearest CPI Sales Agronomist this spring when your Alfalfa has broken dormancy to have them help you evaluate the health of your alfalfa stand for maximum production.

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