Helping Farmers Evaluate Forage Stand Persistence

Brian Lang, northeast crops field specialist

Problem

Every fall, farmers need to evaluate their alfalfa stands to determine whether or not they should be kept another year.  An incorrect decision could cost the farmer $50 to $60 per acre, whether they keep a stand a year too long and suffer poor forage yields or rotate out of a “good” stand too soon and fail to maximize returns on the relatively high expense of forage stand establishment.

Response

It is uncertain as to how many farmers actually evaluate their alfalfa stands in fall, although ISU Extension attempts to educate them every year via media releases in newspaper, ag magazine, and radio.  However, every fall a small percentage of farmers contact the ISU Extension Crop Specialist to educate them on how this is done.

Impact

This fall the ISU Extension Crop Specialist responded to 10 requests on forage stand evaluation.  Three of the stands were adequate for another season, but it was suggested that the other seven be rotated to corn next year.  The key component in these requests is the education of the farmers on the technique used to make these decisions so that the farmers can do this themselves in the future.  Six of the farmers felt confident in following this evaluation procedure in the future, while the other four were going to rely on their local agriculture supplier, also present at these evaluations.  This also suggests to the ISU Extension Crop Specialist to target local agriculture suppliers, crop consultants, and seed dealers with future forage stand evaluation education programs.

Oct. 4, 2004
147 - Sustainable Agriculture

Page last updated: July 9, 2006
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