Planting Date and Cultivar Effects on Alfalfa Forage Production in Mississippi
Volume 15, Issue 2 - December 2022
Editor: Linda Chalker-Scott
Alfalfa is one of the most widely grown forage crops in the USA and it is gaining popularity in the southeastern region due to its versatility as hay, baleage, or grass/legume mixed grazing. Traditional planting of alfalfa in the southeastern USA is recommended from mid-September to early November, but there are producers interested in the feasibility of spring planting that could allow alfalfa to establish a good root system before the onset of hot weather. The objective was to evaluate the impact of planting dates on forage production during the establishment year of three alfalfa cultivars in Mississippi. The experimental design was a randomized complete block in a split-plot arrangement replicated four times. The main plots were three planting dates. The planting dates (PD) were September 15 (PD1) and December 15 (PD2), 2020, and March 15 (PD3), 2021. The subplots were three alfalfa cultivars, ‘Bulldog 505 (BD505),’ ‘Bulldog 805 (BD805),’ and ‘LA6010.’ Plot size was 6 x 11 feet planted at 20 lb PLS ac-1. Cultivars were harvested three times in 2021 to determine yield potential and nutritive value. The total yield for the plantings ranged from 4991 lbs ac-1 in September and 3087 lbs ac-1 in the March planting. The PD2 had a 5% decline in yield potential compared to PD1 while PD3 had significantly lower yields with a 38% decline when compared to PD1. There was a significant PD x harvest interaction (P < 0.0001) for all nutritive value parameters (crude protein, acid detergent fiber, neutral detergent fiber, starch, in vitro dry matter digestibility, and water-soluble carbohydrates). This preliminary study indicates that late alfalfa planting could have limitations in alfalfa production in north Mississippi.
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