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Moore, Ransom Asa, 1861-1941 / The seeding, growing, and curing of alfalfa

Moore, R. A.
University of Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station special bulletin: the seeding, growing, and curing of alfalfa,   pp. [1]-12 ff. PDF (2.3 MB)

Page 6

Special Bulletin.
Alfalfa will not do well on new and unsubdued soil, but de-
velops best on the well cultivated soils.
Soil inoculation.-Alfalfa belongs to the plant family known
as leguminosae. Like our common red and white clovers it
has the power, through minute living organisms found in the
little nodules on the roots, to take the free nitrogen from the
air for the purpose of building plant tissue. Consequently, the
plant is exceedingly high in nitrogen content and receives the
greater portion of that valuable constituent from the air in-
stead of from the ground. These little organisms or bacteria
are necessary for the successful growing of good crops of alfal-
fa, and where the soil only contains them in limited numbers
the alfalfa plants soon wither and die. In some sections of
the State the ground is sufficiently supplied with the alfalfa
bacteria, but there are many localities where they are present in
so limited a nnumber that it seems impossible to get a catch of
alfalfa that will succeed in surviving the first winter.
Sweet clover, an ordinary roadside weed, which natur-
ally grows to the height of five or six feet throughout nearly
all of the counties in southern Wisconsin, is one of the essen-
tial alfalfa bacteria distributers. When a farmer is in doubt
as to whether or not his land contains the proper bacteria he
can successfully inoculate his fields by scattering on them soil
from an old alfalfa field or where sweet clover has grown. For
best results, two tons of earth per acre should be scattered im-
mediately preceding the sowing of the alfalfa seed. For farm-
ers who have not alfalfa or sweet clover near at hand from
which to get infected soil in large amounts we advise the se-
curing of a sack of one hundred pounds of alfalfa soil from the
Experiment Station or elsewhere and scatter on about eight or
ten square rods of the field where it is desired to sow the alfalfa
seed. The year following the seeding, soil can be taken front
the portion of the alfalfa field where the infected soil was scat-
tered and used for the inoculation of larger areas. Alfalfa re-
sponds readily to these methods of inoculation, and nearly all
plants will be found to have the proper nodules on the roots
the first season of growth.

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