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Winterkill Takes A Toll On Alfalfa Stands

Some of Manitoba’s alfalfa stands took a beating this year, not unlike a lot of winter wheat crops.

In some areas half of the stands were 80 per cent killed, said Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives’ forage specialist Glenn Friesen.

Alfalfa stands two years old ideally should have 30 stems per square foot. That will drop to 12 after three or four years. Where there are fewer than 12 stems farmers should consider ripping it up, he said. However, knifing in millet, barley or some other annual crop for green feed is also a consideration given the lateness of the season.

Alfalfa stands that are two years old or younger should have 25 plants per square foot, Friesen said.

“Winterkill was significant this year – two to three times higher than normal and in some places even more than that,” he said.

“It’s a combination of moisture and cold temperatures. Low-lying areas suffered ice encasement. The February rains, you can see exactly where they went and they basically suffocated the alfalfa and grass.”

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Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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