Bruce Anderson
UNL Extension Forage Specialist

UNL Extension Tips: Winter-killed alfalfa and controlling musk thistle

Winter-killed Alfalfa More Common This Year; Growers Urged to Assess Stands

Print Winterkilled Alfalfa More Common This Year; Growers Urged to Assess Stands

Scattered reports are beginning to come in from throughout Nebraska regarding the condition of alfalfa stands and the results have been highly variable. Fields side by side with supposedly similar varieties, cultural practices, and harvest management have had greatly different outcomes. There also has been more within-field variation than usual.

As you remember, winter was cold, dry, and windy with very little snow protection. These are dangerous conditions for alfalfa and some places had severe losses. For example, many of my alfalfa variety test plots near Lincoln died over winter.

Interestingly, there was little or no injury to plots planted last year, but alfalfa planted in 2011 or earlier was nearly wiped out. It is important to note that our last harvest was in mid-October. Many of the fields with stand loss reported to me also were harvested late, but not all of them.

I have been taking last alfalfa harvests in mid- to late October for over 30 years. This is after what is believed to be the prime winterizing period of mid-September to mid-October. We have never suffered much stand loss before, but under the right, or maybe I should say wrong, weather conditions, almost any management can fail.

Check your alfalfa today if you haven’t already done so. I don’t want you to complain later that if you had known your alfalfa stand was so bad you would have planted it to corn and started a new alfalfa field.

It was a tough winter for many alfalfa fields. Check today to see how well your fields survived.

Controlling Musk Thistle While You Can

If you had musk thistles in a pasture or other area last year, you’re likely to find them there again this year.

That’s if you don’t get a jump on early season growth and get them under control.

The current rosette growth form is the ideal stage for chemical control of musk thistle. Early control means fewer bolting flower stalks and seeds which will need to be hand dug out later.

Several herbicides are effective and recommended for musk thistle control. Among those are Milestone and Tordon 22K. (Use special care with Tordon as it can kill woody plants, including trees.) Both Milestone and Tordon will help control other weeds that appear later in the season.

Herbicides that can control musk thistles in pastures include Chaparral, Grazon, Cimarron, Overdrive, Curtail, or a tank-mix of dicamba and 2,4-D. Read and follow label instructions, and spray on time. ❖

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The Fence Post Updated May 5, 2014 11:41AM Published May 5, 2014 11:02AM Copyright 2014 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.