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Wilmington College 2005  Email

Leguminous Forage Crops

Common Name:


Latin Name:

Medicago sativa



Crop Origin:

Northern Africa


Perennial Cool Season

Date Planted:

24 June, 2003

Growth Stages in Ohio

Alfalfa Jan 1 06.JPG (3362443 bytes) Alfalfa feb 6 06.JPG (1622520 bytes) Alfalfa March 4 06.JPG (3301324 bytes) Alfalfa Apr 4 06.JPG (3332683 bytes) Alfalfa May 5 06.JPG (2759432 bytes) Alfalfa 3 June 05.JPG (3180236 bytes)
January February March April May June
Alfalfa 1 July 05.JPG (3703641 bytes) Alfalfa 7aug05.JPG (2628604 bytes) Alfalfa 3 sep 05.JPG (2466635 bytes) Alfalfa 1 oct 05.JPG (2484121 bytes) Alfalfa 4 Nov 05.JPG (2664218 bytes) Alfalfa 2 dec 05.JPG (3674994 bytes)
July August


October November December

Cultivation in Ohio

Primary Uses:



Plant about 1/4 inch deep. Early seeding is important to enable the seedlings to become well established prior to moisture stress of early summer and to take advantage of the total growing season. Seed in early April in southern Ohio and early to mid-April in northern Ohio using certified alfalfa seed of improved, high yielding disease resistant varieties. Where possible use Apron treated seed to protect young seedlings from soil-borne damping off diseases.

 Seeding Rate:

12-15 lbs/acre


Alfalfa is a heavy user of phosphorus and potassium. To maintain alfalfa production and soil nutrient levels, apply 14 pounds P205 and 60 pounds K20 for each ton of alfalfa removed.


Alfalfa is prone to damage by the alfalfa weevil and potato leafhopper. Potato leafhopper infestation can devastate young stands of alfalfa if not properly controlled.


There are more than a dozen diseases of alfalfa. They can be grouped into two categories: those that affect the stems, crowns, or roots and those affecting the foliage. The stem and root-rot diseases are the most serious. Major losses of stand have been caused by Phytophthora root rot, anthracnose, and Sclerotinia crown rot. Verticillium wilt is a constant threat because some farmers are still growing old varieties that lack resistance to this disease. Nearly all alfalfa varieties currently grown in Ohio have resistance to bacterial wilt and Fusarium wilt. The widespread use of resistant varieties has greatly diminished the significance of wilt diseases.


The first cutting can be made 60 to 70 days after emergence. Subsequent cuttings should be made in early bloom stage, with the last harvest taken by September 1. Fall cutting is not advisable.


Seeding alfalfa after alfalfa is especially risky because old stands of alfalfa release a toxin that reduces germination and growth of new alfalfa seedlings (called autotoxicity). This is especially true on heavy textured soils. Disease pathogens accumulate and can cause stand establishment failures when seeding into a field that was not rotated out of alfalfa for at least one year. It is best to wait six months to a year after destroying a two-year or older stand before reseeding alfalfa back into the same field.



Alfalfa_leaf1.JPG (941160 bytes) Alfalfa plant


Alfalfa_flower1.JPG (2402664 bytes) Alfalfa_flower2.JPG (1990671 bytes)


Alfalfa seed Alfalfa seedhead


Alfalfa hay harvested in 2003

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