Spring Alfalfa Management – Frost Heaving

By Darren Kulicamp  |  May 25, 2022

Spring planting of corn is in full swing across Michigan, and it will be time for first cutting hay to come off in short order. With the busyness that comes with hauling manure, dodging the rain, and getting your Legacy Seeds corn in the ground, don’t forget to take minute to check in on the health of your Legacy Seeds alfalfa stands.

There are many extreme winter weather events that can harm your alfalfa stand including ice sheeting and frost heaving. Despite our best efforts, there is little we can do to prevent these events. Early observation is key to determining what to do next. Frost heaving causes the crown of the plant to be worked out of the soil, exposing the tap root with a highly likelihood of the plant be damaged or snapped off at harvest. This kills the plant. Frost heaving has been observed on heavy clay soils this spring across Michigan.

After observing that frost heaving has occurred, there are a few options. First, determine the extent of the issue. Is it the whole field or a manageable portion of the field? Is it a new seeding or is it close to the end of its life? If the stand is beyond its first year and only marginally effected, consider planting grass into the affected areas to continue getting a crop from the field for the life of the stand. Replanting alfalfa into a stand beyond its first year is not recommended due to autotoxicity. If it is a new stand the best course of action is to reseed the affected areas. The reseeding can be done as soon as possible but should be done no later than after first cutting. Reseeding is a scenario that no one likes to deal with, especially given the effort that was put in to establishing it correctly last fall, but it is the best option to get the most out of your alfalfa field for the years to come. If you have concerns about your alfalfa field this spring, call DF Seeds Forage Specialist, Darren Kulicamp to help you determine what is the best next step.

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