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The leading commercial varieties of alfalfa in the United States are the Common, Grimm, and Peruvian. Grimm alfalfa is superior to the Common in the North, and less hardy varieties are preferable for the South.
Alfalfa succeeds best in a dry climate where water is available for irrigation. The best soils on the farm should be selected for the alfalfa field. It is practically useless to attempt to grow the crop on nonproductive lands to improve them.
It is best to precede alfalfa for a year or two with some cultivated crop, such as corn, potatoes, or cotton, to free the land from weeds. The ideal seed bed is a well-settled subsurface with a fine surface that is loose to a depth of 2 inches.
Alfalfa should be sown early enough to permit the plants to become well established before winter sets in. The rate of sowing depends upon the condition of the soil. In the East 15 to 20 pounds per acre is generally advised. In the West, under irrigation, 15 pounds is sufficient, while under dry-land conditions 8 to 10 pounds is ample. Except under very favorable conditions alfalfa should be sown without a nurse crop.
Except where alfalfa is grown under irrigation there is little to be gained by harrowing broadcast fields so long as the stand is satisfactory and the plants are making a good growth. Attempts to thicken up thin stands by resowing or other means nearly always result in failure.
Stands are maintained longer and the yields are generally larger where cutting is delayed until the plants are well in bloom. Hay of a higher feeding value is obtained from cuttings made at the bud or early bloom stage.
Alfalfa hay and pasture are readily eaten by all classes of farm animals.
Alfalfa produces seed in paying quantities only when the rainfall is comparatively light. The average yield per acre runs from 2 to 4 bushels.