Assess Alfalfa and Small Grain Winterkill Now

The winter of 2013-14 was long and cold and uncomfortable for most human beings in the North Country and across the Northern US.  Now that the snow has receded and soils have warmed enough to wake up most plants, it is apparent that many alfalfa and small grain fields did not endure the winter well either.  Some fields appear to have suffered extensive stand losses and will undoubtedly require reseeding or replacement.  Losses are variable and appear to be most devastating on the flatter, more poorly drained sections of fields where snowmelt and rain ponded and froze for an extended length of time.  It is important to evaluate stands early this spring to explore your options for managing winter injury and losses. A tour across the North Country indicates that large portions of many alfalfa and small grain fields appear to be slow to ‘green up.’  These fields should be scouted for injury, frost heaving, root damage and death.  The first step in evaluating your own fields is to count the stand density or plant population, which is indicative of the yield potential of the field.  With a clipboard or notebook, walk the field in a random or ‘W’ pattern and choose 10 representative locations in the field to count the number of plants per square foot.  You can make a 12” x 12” wooden or PVC square to make this task easier.  For alfalfa, toss the square down and count and record the number of alfalfa crowns within the square.  Be sure you count crowns, not st

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