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Wisconsin bankers' farm bulletin
(1913-1919)

Graber, L. F.
Wisconsin bankers' farm bulletin. Bulletin no. 22: how to grow alfalfa PDF (1.1 MB)



   Is It necessary to inoculate the soil? Yes, In most places in Wisconsin
it Is.
inoculation is not a difficult job and in no case should a farmer "take
a chance"
in neglecting this important operation, which is so essential in securing
a good
stand of alfalf a
    Spread a ton of soil taken from a successful alfalfa field or from the
road-
side where sweet clover is growing, on each acre of the land you are to seed
to
alfalfa. Do this just before sowing the alfalfa seed, and harrow it In. Then
you have introduced the proper alfalfa bacteria in the soil which are so
essen-
tial in securing a healthy, vigorous growing alfalfa crop. And, remember,
a
field once properly inoculated is always inoculated.
    All farmers are advised to mix a quart of alfalfa seed per acre with
the
timothy and clover seed when seeding down, as this will get a few alfalfa
plants
established in the field which will become bacteria distributers and thus
inocu-
late the soil for future crops of alfalfa.
    A fair inoculation can be obtained by securing some alfalfa soil direct
from
the Experiment Station or from some good alfalfa field, and then mix equal
parts of soil and alfalfa seed by weight. Sow the soil and seed mixture by
hand. For limited areas of one or two acres, this method of inoculation is
practical.
    In some instances cultures for inoculating alfalfa seed previous to sowing
 have given good results. These can be secured free by any farmer if he will
 write Professor Karl F. Kellerman, Bureau of Plant Industry, Washington,
D. C.
     Shall we lime the land? Alfalfa will not do well on sour or acid soil.
 Before growing alfalfa, the soil should be tested with blue litmus paper
which
 can be secured from a druggist. Take a handful of moistened earth from a
few
 inches beneath the surface of the ground and press into a ball. Break this
mud
 ball into halves and place a strip of blue litmus on one of the halves and
cover
 with the other. After five minutes examine the litmus paper, and if it has
 changed in color from blue to a distinct pink or becomes spotted with pink
 spots, the soil is acid and needs lime for successful alfalfa growing.
     On sour soils from two to four tons of air-slaked lime or ground limestone
 rock or marl or lime refuse should be applied. Whatever form is used it
should
 always be applied to the surface of plowed land and harrowed or disced in.
 It may be put on In the fall or early spring-prior to seeding the alfalfa.
Lime
 distributers are desirable when large areas are limed but with small acreages
it
 can be conveniently spread with a shovel.
      What Is the best method of seeding? For the beginner seeding the alfalfa
  alone gives the best results. The soil is plowed in the fall or early spring
and
  limed if necessary. Then the field is disced and harrowed often enough
up to
  the first of June or July to clean the land of weeds. On average fields
this
  weed killing process need not be continued later than the first week in
June,
  but with a weedy soil it is well to harrow and disc until July or August.
The
  field is then inoculated and the alfalfa seeded at not less than 20 pounds
per
  acre. With a favorable season onle crop or two crops of hay are sometimes
  secured before September 1, but this Is entirely dependent on the rainfall
and
  our soil conditions.
      Seeding with a nurse crop. Especially on fields which have grown alfalfa
   successfully seeding with a nurse crop gives good results. Fall plow if
the land
   is not too hilly and washing is apt to occur. If spring plowed the soil
should
   be rolled after seeding so as to make a compact seed bed which is very
essential
   for the alfalfa. A light harrowing after rolling is necessary to form
a loose mulch
   which prevents rapid drying and evaporatlon. A light seeding of not over
one
   bushel of barley or oats per acre is highly important. Heavy seedings
of the nurse
   crop are very dangerous and usually crowd the alfalfa so as to stunt its
devel-
   opment and a poor stand results. If barley is used as a nurse crop It
may be
   cut for grain. Oats ripens later and must be cut for hay so as not to
check the
   growth of the alfalfa.
   Other methods of seeding alfalfa. Where a crop oi ear-y Ip
grown the alfalfa may be seeded after their harvest but not later than August
15. Seeding alfalfa after this date nearly always results in failure as the
crop
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