> I own own 100 acres of bottom land in eastern KY that is currently in the
> CRP program. I plan to raise alfalfa in 1997 (the year the property
> comes off CRP). My question involves bringing the property into alfalfa
> production in 1997. The land is currently covered in fescue and
> weeds. What is a cost effective way to bring the property into alfalfa
> production? What is a way witha sustainable, no-till approach in mind (along
> with relative costs)?
To get a good stand of alfalfa, you'll need to clear the current growth
and get to a firm seedbed I think. That implies some kind of tillage - I
can't figure out a good way to avoid that and will watch with interest in
case someone has some good ideas on that score.
If you have to till and the land is bottom-land, NHEL that won't erode
too bad I assume, you could plow it or disk it several times. Plowing
once every 5 - 10 years needn't be the end of all sustainability, even
though it has a bad name. Plowing in special cases is getting some
serious study again.
Let me suggest an alternative that you might want to at least consider.
As a trade-off to avoid severe tillage, you could do a burn-down chemical
and no-till beans or even corn for one year, then you'd have ground that
would be easier to work up for alfalfa the next year. The trade-off is
the use of the chemicals versus the more extreme mechanical tillage
needed to go straight from fescue to alfalfa. I think only you can
decide which you prefer.
In any event, be sure to use a good, firm seedbed for the alfalfa. A
roller is coming back into vogue for that. Seeds up to 1/4 inch deep as
you probably already know. Most will recommend you soil test soon and if
the pH needs adjustment, add lime the year before you plant alfalfa.
Around here, we say alfalfa don't like wet feet, so I probably woudn't
plant on straight river-bottom, but I imagine your condition is
different. My experience is if I'm raising it to sell, I can get more
money for less work with a good grass mixture aimed at the horse market,
and if I'm raising it to graze, a grass mixture is best, too. In my own
case, I can't raise the quality alfalfa year-in-year-out to compete with
the guys who raise it under irrigation. I'm better off aiming at a
different crop for different uses.
Good luck, and I'd be interested in hearing what you decide and why, if
you care to share it.