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Oklahoma County Cooperative Extension Service

Alfalfa

Alfalfa is one of Oklahoma's most important crops, occupying about 400,000 acres and generating $100-200 million in direct sales. Higher monetary values are cited when the "value-added" aspects of animal products are included.

 The yield of alfalfa and stand life depend on many management decisions. Low soil fertility and use of inferior varieties are the most frequently identified production problems. Both the variety and the soil fertility determine alfalfa yield, stand persistence and forage quality. Good alfalfa varieties, frown with appropriate fertilizer applications, maintain thick stands and produce high yields of excellent quality hay.

 Choosing which variety to sow is one of the few irreversible management decisions for alfalfa producers. That choice has an important impact on hay yields, degree of insect and disease resistance, and stand longevity, all which affect profits. OSU conducts alfalfa variety evaluations throughout the state to assist producers with decisions related to variety choices.

The following varieties consistently produce the highest yields in Oklahoma. In addition to high yields, stands of recommended varieties persist well. The best alfalfa varieties, according to our date are: OK 49; Good As Gold; ICI 630; ICI 645; Aggressor; Arrow; and Cimarron VR> These are proven multiple pest-resistant varieties and are the best over a wide variety of environments. For varieties to be considered for recommendation they must perform well, and there is a good likelihood that seed will be marketed in the state.

Alfalfa Varieties

Good As Gold, marketed by Johnston Seed Co., was developed by Dairyland Seeds and has resistance to the important pests in Oklahoma. Like other recommended alfalfa varieties, Good As Gold has been tested at several locations during many different growing seasons. This is a multiple-pest resistant variety that couples high yield with good stand persistence.

ICI 630 and ICI 645, marketed by ICI Seeds, Inc., have been tested in Oklahoma for several years in different trials. They have resistance to several diseases found in Oklahoma and to spotted alfalfa aphid. Even though ICI 630 and ICI 645 were developed in completely different breeding programs, they are similar in having excellent persistence in the older trials.

Arrow and Aggressor were developed by A.B.I. and marketed with the trade mark of America's Alfalfa. Both of these are relatively new to this recommended list. Arrow and Aggressor have resistance to the major diseases in this area and resistance to aphids.

Cimarron VR, was developed and is marketed by Great Plains Research. Both have been tested in Oklahoma for many years. Their persistence has been good. Cimarron VR and Cimarron possess resistance to the important insect and disease pests in Oklahoma and perform similarly.

Alfalfa Stand Establishment

The objective of alfalfa stand establishment is to obtain about 30 vigorously growing seedlings per square before extreme weather conditions prevail. Good planning, along with some "art" and "good farming" practices are critical to reliable stand establishment. Although the exact steps required for successful stand establishment vary from farm to farm and from year to year, there are 12 Keys included in the Alfalfa Establishment Checklist. Each Key is briefly discussed to answer frequently asked questions.

Alfalfa Establishment Checklist

  • Site Selection
    • Choose a deep, fertile, well-drained soil.
  • Soil Test
    • Apply fertilizer and lime according to a reliable soil analysis.
  • Land Preparation
    • Plow, level, and drain low areas well before sowing.
  • Seedbed Refinement
    • Develop a level, mellow, firm bed with small clods.
  • Variety Choice
    • Select adapted, pest-resistant varieties.
  • Seed Quality
    • Use weed-free, clean seed with good germination.
  • Planting Date
    • Sow during Aug. 15 to Sept. 15 or March 15 to April 15.
    Seed Placement
    • Cover seeds with 1/2" soil and press.
  • Sowing Rate
    • Plant 10-12 lbs./ac. of good seed.
  • Planting Equipment
    • Calibrate and adjust planters to place seed in a good environment.
  • Seed Inoculation
    • Use rhizobium bacteria, specific for alfalfa.
  • Pest Control
    • Control weeds, insects, and diseases.

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