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Alfalfa helps corn growers replenish nitrogen

Photo courtesy of WinField United

Alfalfa can help corn growers with nitrogen, according to Randy Welch of Winfield United. Corn-on-corn planting practices deplete nitrogen, but considering alfalfa, especially in dairy country, can help replenish those levels.

“The value of that alfalfa is huge, and it produces probably somewhere between 120-140 units of nitrogen per rotation.” Welch said. “Granted, the alfalfa has to be there for three years to get that credit, but you would have a chance to raise that 120 to 140 units of nitrogen, which would supply most of the nitrogen needed for our corn production the following year. And certainly, if you’re in a livestock farm where you put a dose of manure on there, you’ve got all the nitrogen that that corn crop needs to produce a beautiful crop of corn, either for corn, green or for corn silage.”

Welch said you can get nitrogen from alfalfa not just the following year, but the year after that as well.

“You actually produce, some of that alfalfa, that nitrogen comes out of that alfalfa, even a year later, so two years later, you’re still pulling out pulling out somewhere between 30 to maybe 50 units of nitrogen, even the following year,” Welch said. “So, the value of this alfalfa to a corn crop is huge. So, if you’re really raising any other grass crop, wheat would be included in this comment as well, buy you’ve got a lot of nitrogen that’s being produced by that alfalfa crop, that’s really a salvage value that no one really talks about.”

Welch added that crop rotation and using alfalfa can break the cycle of corn rootworm.

“Crop rotation is very important to crop management because if we can break that insect cycle or that disease cycle, then we have a healthier crop and a better outcome for that crop,” Welch said. “We have a lot of very, very high root worm populations in our corn this year, and that means that we’re going to have more risk of rootworm lodging next year or we have to plan for systems both plant genetics and also insecticides to control that rootworm population. Now one of the ways you can control rootworms is to rotate to another crop. In the case of alfalfa rootworms will not be hosted in alfalfa, so it’s a great way to control rootworms is to rotate to alfalfa.”

For more information, visit winfieldunitied.com.

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