Agronomy Blog

Keys to Alfalfa Stand Establishment

by Corey Prosser | Dec 8, 2017

When it comes to planting alfalfa, there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration. A few of them include soil fertility, seed bed preparation, and timing of seeding. Alfalfa is a crop that be challenging to establish but can also be a very profitable crop.

The first thing to do before you plant alfalfa is to have a soil sample analyzed. Alfalfa is an extremely pH sensitive crop. So in order to determine if your soil is ready for alfalfa, make sure to sample your soil. The soil pH that is optimal for alfalfa is 6.8 to 7.0. Too many times when I look at poor new alfalfa stands it leads back to soil pH. This is a very simple step but can be one of the most important. Soil samples are very cheap in regard to the cost of seed. If you need to make any adjustments to you soil pH by applying lime, make sure you take into consideration the time it takes for lime to effectively adjust soil pH. This step should be done one year before planting a field to alfalfa for best results.

Once your soil pH is in check, the next major step is seed bed preparation. Alfalfa requires a firm well prepared seed bed for best stand establishment. A good rule to follow is a foot print while walking the field should be no more than ½ inch deep. If your seed bed is too soft you may plant the seed to deep, and if seed bed is too hard you will not get proper seed to soil contact.

The next step is selecting your alfalfa variety. LG Seeds offers 3 different conventional alfalfa varieties (eXalt, eXterra and ProBlend) that each have a fit on your farm, depending on your needs from the crop. LG Seeds also offers 9200RR, a Genuity® Roundup Ready® alfalfa, and HG4001, a Hi-Gest® Low Lignin variety. These are products that can give you great benefits. To determine which seed is best for your operation contact your Dealer, DSM, or Agronomist.

When it comes to planting your selected alfalfa product there are important things to remember. The first is that alfalfa should be planted at a rate of 12 to 20 lbs/ac depending on location and timing. Make sure to monitor your drill while planting and make adjustments so you are planting at proper rates. Next is seed depth, which should be no deeper than ½ inch. If planted deeper seed may struggle to reach the surface and stand could be affected. Alfalfa is best recommended planted in the fall that way the next year cuttings will not be limited as in spring plantings. When planted in the fall the following things need to be taken into consideration. Alfalfa needs 60 degree temperatures to germinate and must be planted 6 to 8 weeks before first frost. Alfalfa also needs to reach a height of 2 to 4 inches in order to develop a crown and become a perennial. If a crown is not developed before frost, the alfalfa is only an annual and will not survive the winter.

Once you have planted your alfalfa make sure to check your stands to insure good stands. 8 seedlings per square foot is a good stand. If you are not satisfied with your stand and decide to replant make sure you do so before first flower. New seedlings may have autotoxicity as soon as the first flowers begin to emerge. Autotoxicity may persist for up to 2 years depending on soil type and farming practices. This means all the work you have done to establish alfalfa in a field may be lost and you may have to choose another field.


Alfalfa is a very important crop and must be established properly. Alfalfa can be very profitable and can be key in crop rotations. When in crop rotations it can help improve corn yields when corn is planted after an established alfalfa stand. Alfalfa is also very important in many livestock diets across the country.

If you have any questions about alfalfa or any of the products LG Seeds has to offer contact you LG Seeds DSM or Agronomist, and thank you for your support of the LG Seeds Brand.

Sources and additional information:


Download a copy of this Technical Bulletin: Tech_360 - Keys to Alfalfa Stand Establishment

Note: The information in this issue is based upon field observations and third party information. Since variations in local conditions may affect the information and suggestions contained in this issue, LG Seeds disclaims legal responsibility therefore. Always read and follow label instructions.
Genuity®, Roundup® and Roundup Ready® are registered trademarks of Monsanto Technology LLC.  Hi_Gest® and Alforex® are trademarks of Dow AgroSciences, LLC. Alforex Seeds is an affiliate of Dow AgroSciences, LLC.
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