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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)



does not get sufficient growth before the first killing frost to withstand
the
winter. In those sections where canning peas are grown and harvested in
June or the first part of July the soil may be disced and harrowed arld inocu-
lated immediately after the peas are harvested and the alfalfa seeded at
the
rate of 20 pounds per acre with good results. Seeding alfalfa after a grain
crop has been cut is dependent for success on the amount of rainfall. Too
often the soil is so dry at this time that It is impossible to work up a
good seed
bed prior to August 15.
     Where a crop of tobacco or sugar beets has been raised and the land
prac-
 tically freed of weeds the alfalfa may be seeded alone in the early spring
and
 two, sometimes three, good cuttings are secured the first year.
     When should alfalfa be cut? To maintain a good stand of alfalfa nothing
 is so important as to cut the crop at the proper time. The first cutting
will
 come in the early part of June-a trying time to cure the hay. The proper
 cutting stage is when the plants have just begun to bloom and the little
shoots
 or sprouts at the crowns have made their appearance and are on the average
 not over an inch in length. To delay the cutting of alfalfa until the entire
field
 is In blossom is a very poor practice. At this stage the little shoots or
sprouts
 at the base of the stem which produce the second crop will have grown three
 to five inches in length. In mowing these will be clipped off and the second
 growth delayed two or three weeks. The tLird cutting will then not be ready
 until the middle or latter part of September. If the third crop is harvested
at
 this time the alfalfa seldom secures sufficient growth before cold weather
to
 withstand the winter. Many failures are due to late fall cutting. Alfalfa
should
 never be cut after September 5.
    Curing alfalfa hay. The best hay is made by cocking the alfalfa and cover-
ing it with hay caps, which insures protection against rains. The hay is
bunched
usually on the same day it is cut when in a good wilted condition. By allowing
It to cure in this manner for two days, the leaves and stems dry out uniformly,
with little loss, and you get a bright green hay of the best quality.
    When alfalfa hay is harvested on a large scale, or if labor is scarce,
hay
caps are not always used. After the hay is well wilted, it is raked into
long
windrows with a side-delivery rake and allowed to cure here for two days.
It
may be loaded with a drum hay loader or hauled in with sweep rakes. Alfalfa
hay will stand more rain than either timothy or clover.
    Why alfalfa fails. During the past three years over one thousand reports
on alfalfa growing in Wisconsin have been received by the Alfalfa Or4er-
Wisconsin's Alfalfa Grower's Association. These reports clearly show that
the
principal causes for failures with alfalfa in Wisconsin are as follows:
    1. Failure on part of farmer to inoculate the soil.
    2. Attempting to grow alfalfa on sour or acid soils without liming the
land.
    3. Poor preparation of the seed bed and improper methods of seeding.
    4. Weeds-heavy growths of which crowd out the alfalfa.
    5. Too thick seeding of the nurse crop. Not over one bushel of grain
should be sown with the alfalfa and if oats is usdd it should be cut for
hay.
    6. Late seeding. Seeding after August 15 is a dangerous practice. Suffi-
cient growth is often not secured before cold weather sets in so that the
alfalfa
may stand the winter.
    7. Late cutting. Cutting alfalfa after the first week In September has
resulted in serious winter-killing of many otherwise good stands of alfalfa-
Alfalfa should have at least six to eight inches growth to afford sufficient
winter
protection.
    8. Pasturing. Late and close pasturing are particularly dangerous.
    9. Poor soils. Although alfalfa is a great soil enricher it requires
at least
a medium fertile soil. Poor soils should be well manured.
    10. Low, flat, poorly drained soils. Alfalfa requires a well drained
field.
On flat, heavy clay soils which hold water from melting snows and heavy rains
in the early spring alfalfa may be heaved out by alternate freezing and thawixg
weather. A sloping-field which will provide ample run-off for surface water
Is
more desirable.


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