Forage Crops

Asked April 8, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT

Good Morning. I am Mark Zimmerman from Tiffin, Ohio, Seneca County. I am preparing to establish a hay field after wheat this year. Although I have existing hay fields, this new one is giving me some concerns. I wish to establish an Alfalfa\Orchard Grass mix. The soil is Shoals and a little Chagrin. We tiled the 13 acre field two years ago and have a suitable outlet. The soil is slow to drain but I expect that to change as the tile system gets some age. We have planted row crops there for the past several years without flooding incident. The area is low but not highly susceptible for flooding. So:1. Is there an Alfalfa\Orchard Grass combination suitable for these soil conditions.2. Being that the existing wheat crop is very dense (planted at 2 bu\ac and every seed germinated) can I effectively seed with my Nitrogen application or will it be shaded out and killed?If you need more info please let me know.
Thanks,Mark R. Zimmerman

Seneca County Ohio

1 Response

I apologize for the delayed response as I have had very limited time in the office last week, and time is not on your side if you still wish to seed into wheat, but mother nature may dictate that for you anyway!
I have personally never had much luck establishing a hayfield by interseeding into a wheat crop, although it can be done given the right conditions and timing, neither of which are happening this year. given the cool wet conditions of this spring, I would advise to wait until after wheat harvest and do a fall seeding in August, which is typically the most successful method. Several factors lead me to that recommendation: 1 - you should have already seeded in to the wheat by now or be doing it this week so it could germinate before the canopy closes up and shades out the alfalfa, 2 - with the cooler than normal soil temps, germination may not be as quick and still lead to competition problems, 3 - since the field was tiled 2 years ago, you will likely still notice settling of the tile lines this year, so I would recommend deep tilling or at least a disk or field cultivator set as deep as possible to help level the tile lines, and also improve your drainage. The alfalfa will also help the tile to work over a few years as the roots will go deeper than row crops, and this will prove very beneficial for your field along with the simple fact of alfalfa in the rotation to improve soil health, so long as you fertilize properly throughout the life of the stand.
As far as what combination will work, just depends on your goals and your market, but I would recommend an approximate 60 alfalfa/40 orchardrass combo, which would mean a seeding rate of approximately 10 lbs. alfalfa and 4 lbs orchardgrass. for variety selection I would consult with your seed dealer, or local co-op to match soil types with variety characteristics, and you may get some ideas from the ohio Forage performance trials, which can be viewed at

Feel free to call or email me with any additional questions.