Time to seed alfalfa


Late-summer is an excellent time to establish alfalfa. Fertility is extremely important to successfully establish alfalfa, especially in eastern Ohio.

Soil test

Obtaining a recent soil test analysis is critical to establishing alfalfa. Soil pH should be 6.8 for soils having a subsoil pH of less than 6.0 and 6.5 for soils having a subsoil pH of greater than 6.0. If the soil pH is not at these levels, do not seed alfalfa as soil pH needs to be adjusted at least 6 months in advance to seeding.

Consult the Tri-State Fertility Guide for phosphate and potash recommendations.

The critical soil test value for phosphorus is 25 parts per million Bray P1 and 88 to 150 parts per million for potassium. Incorporation of phosphate and potash is preferred to make it more available to seedlings and reduce losses into the environment.

Apply boron at two pounds per acre if the soil test is less than one part per million. Sulfur may also be needed to maximize alfalfa production.


Choosing the right alfalfa variety for the field is very important for the longevity of the stand. Disease resistance characteristics and winter hardiness of varieties can be found from the University of Wisconsin.

Other traits to consider when selecting varieties include potato leafhopper resistance, low lignin, pea aphid resistance, and Roundup Ready.

Consult the Ohio Alfalfa Performance Variety trials for yield potential in Ohio by location.


Plant alfalfa from August 1st to August 15th in northern Ohio and until August 30th in southern Ohio. The earlier the planting, the less likely sclerotinia stem rot will cause problems and the more successful establishment will be.

Plant the highest quality seed available. Alfalfa seed must be inoculated with nitrogen fixing bacteria for optimal yields.

Treat alfalfa seed with a fungicide to combat soil pathogens. Seedbed preparation is extremely critical to successful establishment.

Be sure field is devoid of weeds either with tillage or herbicides. Soil should be smooth and firm if tilled.

Manage plant residues in advance to allow for the greatest seed to soil contact at the time of seeding. Recommended seeding rate is 80 seeds per square foot or 15 pounds per acre. The seeding rate can be drastically reduced if using a Brillion Sure Stand Alfalfa seeder.

We have plenty of moisture now to get seed established but do not prepare the seedbed when the soil is wet to prevent compaction.

Good luck with seeding alfalfa this summer.


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  1. Autumn is the best season for growing alfalfa, especially if you live in a warm climate. Aside from the fall, another excellent time for alfalfa planting is spring. If you pick this season, wait until the last frost has passed to start sowing seeds.

  2. Knowing when to plant alfalfa is necessary, whether it is used as a cover crop or as cattle feed. After all, adverse weather conditions can kill this legume if you’re not careful.


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