Alfalfa, A key to consistent low cost corn and wheat production.
Producers and agronomists agree, Corn needs no placed N following Alfalfa. In fact for up to 3 and 4 years Alfalfa contributes to the crop needs. No-tillage systems offer the greatest opportunity to reduce nitrogen inputs. However, placed phosphate is often overlooked. The root system of alfalfa delivers the phosphate to the most remote areas of soil. Roots absorb and move placed P around in the soil profile.
Why is Alfalfa a great rotation?
The Queen of Forage offers more punch to future crops because it is a perennial crop with an extremely deep and well established root system. As the crop nodules it develops a broad distribution and optimally a uniform distribution of soil stable organic nitrogen. The alfalfa stand must be uniform to make the even distribution. The distribution is three dimensional....so nitrogen is located in every nook and cranny of the soil profile. Another key factor is the break in the soil pathogens. Corn and wheat following alfalfa has virtually no disease issues or antagonistic soil insects to detract from yield potential.
The fixation of nitrogen or nodulation is well known. However, alfalfa has high phosphate and potash needs. This is because the root system is so extensive and a lot of P and K is exported in the high protein quality feed. The roots move P and K throughout the soil profile.
This means Alfalfa must be properly fertilized with P and K and Boron. Established stands can be fertilized with single disc openers. Yes, placement of P and K without tillage. Better understood..Alfalfa responds to fertilizer placement much better than top dressed P and K. Research work carried out by Larry Murphy indicates that placed P is about twice as effective as top dressed P.
High yields in Alfalfa production also require a 7 to 7.6 pH....In fact some the highest yields produced are found soils well above 7 pH....One of th reasons is the Rhizobia utilize the micro-nutrient molybdenum as a catalyst to produce high value modulated ammonic N. Molybdenum is easily sequested on soils below 7 pH....thus much higher levels of moly are available to the Rhizobia at the pH of 7 or greater.
Why is No-tillage is key to top yields?
Alfalfa is very sensitive to compaction. No-tillage drills may great applicators with single disc openers. Belted tractors with APP/ATS tanks mounted to the tractor reduce compaction. Make sure the NH3 trailer tanks carry no more than 5,000 pounds per axle. Floater tires help the trailer to reduce surface compaction.
Established bands feed future crops. Not all the mobile P and K is removed.
Rotational Band Loading allows future cereal crops to access the placed P.
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4501 East Trent Ave.
Spokane, WA 99212
(509) 535.9925 fax(509) 535.9989
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