Wet spring weather may have prevented you from planting alfalfa before you jumped into planting corn. But you do have some planting alternatives, says University of Nebraska forage specialist Bruce Anderson.

He says, “Normally, I want alfalfa planted by mid-May on dryland sites and by the end of May under irrigation in Nebraska. Planting later greatly increases the risk of hot, dry, windy weather killing new seedlings before they have enough root system to support the moisture needs of the plants.”

But, Anderson acknowledges that planting by those deadlines was difficult this spring. If you are stilling trying to get alfalfa in the ground, he suggests one way to plant more quickly is to seed no-till. Crop residues of corn, milo, beans, and small grains are not a problem for most drills, but ridges along the rows can make the field too rough for comfortable hay making in some places.

Weeds can be controlled post-emerge using herbicides like Poast Plus or Select for grasses and Buctril, Pursuit, Raptor, and Butyrac for broadleaves. Mowing weeds also helps. A burndown spray using Roundup or Gramoxone before planting may be needed if weeds already are present.

If you can’t plant by late May, it often is best to wait until August rather than seed alfalfa just before hot weather, Anderson says. But you may need to plant something to meet your hay needs.

He says lternatives include sorghum-sudan hybrids and foxtail millet. Specifically, Anderson says foxtail millet won’t regrow after an early August hay, so it may work best. Sorghum-sudans will need to be sprayed or tilled before an August alfalfa planting. Berseem clover, any of the summer annual grasses like cane, pearl millet, and sorghum-sudan, or even soybeans for hay could be used if you decide to wait a full year before trying to plant alfalfa again next spring.

Read more from Bruce Anderson on Hay and Forage Grower Magazine