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Manage Alfalfa Based on Winter Damage

Updated: 04/01/2013 @ 2:57pm

Our calendars show that spring has arrived. Although recent temperatures have been cool across the Midwest, the snow has finally begun to melt. Soon plants will emerge from their winter dormancy, so growers will need to visually evaluate grass regrowth and the vitality of their alfalfa plants.


Usually at this time of year, our alfalfa is waking up and ready to stretch from its long winter nap. But, this season could be quite different as last summer’s drought could have slowed the plant’s ability to adequately build carbohydrates needed to maintain the plant through the winter months. Patience will certainly be key.


How our unusual winter weather will affect the alfalfa crop is anyone’s guess at this point. Snow cover and residual vegetative cover help insulate the soil and stabilize soil temperatures.


As temperatures warm through March, plants typically “break dormancy” and regrow. But, our weather has been anything but typical!

Although daytime temperatures have fluctuated between above normal to freezing throughout the winter,hopefully, night-time temps were cold enough to prevent plants from breaking dormancy. When plants break dormancy early, they’re more susceptible to cold crown temperatures. We’re also hopeful early season snow melt didn’t submerge alfalfa plants in what then became frozen ponds in low-lying areas.


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