Establishing Alfalfa — The Pros and Cons of a Nurse Crop

The seeding pass is the most important one you make on your fields. This is true for annual crops, but perhaps even more so for perennial crops as these fields may need to produce for four, five or several more years. What’s more, forages can be quite tricky to establish, as the seeds are typically very small and sometimes also light. Using a nurse crop in conjunction when establishing alfalfa is one practice some farmers use, but it’s not always necessary says Glenn Friesen, provincial forage specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives.

In this interview with RealAgriculture.com editor Lyndsey Smith, Friesen explains what seeding and soil conditions may warrant a nurse crop to go down with the alfalfa crop, but also covers why you may want to consider foregoing one. He also explains ideal harvesting timing of the nurse crop and the established stand, and why it’s important to consider soil fertility, especially in the year of establishment.

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