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Late season alfalfa plantings: conventional vs. no-till methods

Wolf, D.D., Edmisten, K.L.
Crop science 1989 v.29 no.1 pp. 170-175
Medicago sativa, planting date, autumn, tillage, no-tillage, harvest date, crop yield, plant establishment, Virginia
Fall establishment of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) in locations such as southwest Virginia (37 degrees N, 80 degrees W, and 600 m elevation) is often not possible by conventional methods because of the difficulty in meeting currently recommended planting deadlines. This usually results from unfavorable weather, a need to utilize a previous crop for an extended time, or the removal of a corn crop for silage. The objective of this study was to establish a recommended date for late-season no-till alfalfa planting as an alternative to conventional methods so that plantings need not be delayed until the following spring. Alfalfa was planted on 1, 10, 20, 30 September, and 10 October 1982, 1983, and 1984, and 1985 using conventional and no-till procedures. Soils were Groseclose (clayey, mixed, mesic Typic Hapludults) with 3 to 7% slopes. Excellent stands were achieved by mid-December from both conventional and no-till procedures regardless of planting date. Seedling survival during the winter decreased with delay in planting after 1 September, with less loss occurring with no-till than conventional plantings. Each 10-d delay in planting after 1 September caused a 6.8-d delay in first harvest date the following spring beyond the mid-May cutting date resulting from the 1 September planting. These data support a recommendation that no-till planting can be made 3 wk later in the growing season than is possible with conventional methods. This extra latitude will allow flexibility when unavoidable delays in planting may occur and where the previous crop cannot be removed early enough to permit successful conventional planting.