For example, might a grass-alfalfa mixture be better for you than straight alfalfa? Since glyphosate will kill the grass, use a good conventional alfalfa variety instead. Similarly, if you plant a companion crop like oats for hay or grain with your alfalfa, glyphosate can’t be used until after the companion crop is harvested.

Emeritus Professor / Extension Forage Specialist / University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Not everyone has problems with weeds in alfalfa. If you usually establish good stands using conventional alfalfas, Roundup Ready varieties may have little value to you. And weeds aren’t necessarily all bad. They can boost tonnage and often be acceptable feed for many classes of livestock.

But maybe Roundup Ready alfalfa is right for you. Yes – the seed is expensive. The tech fee alone will add $25 to $50 per acre to most seed costs. But establishing a new field may not cost as much as you might think. The seed itself can provide much of that help.

Research has shown that most growers can reduce seeding rates by 15 to 20 percent compared to historical seeding rates when planting Roundup Ready alfalfa. That means if you normally plant 15 pounds of seed per acre, with Roundup Ready alfalfa you probably can do as well with just 12 pounds per acre. That can lower your seed cost by more than $20 per acre.

However, there is a catch. Isn’t there always a catch? Fortunately, this is a pretty simple catch. You see, in order to get good stands when using lower seeding rates of Roundup Ready alfalfa, you need to do a good job of following establishment recommendations. Taking shortcuts with establishment techniques will produce thin, spotty stands when using lowered seeding rates.


Proper establishment technique begins with preparing a proper, firm seedbed. When seeding rate is reduced, it is especially important that all seeds have good contact with the soil for rapid germination and emergence. Be sure to plant at the right time, and apply fertilizer and lime as needed according to soil test recommendations. Use a correctly adjusted drill or seeder that will place the right amount of seed at the right depth.

Of course, spray Roundup before weeds and alfalfa seedlings get more than about 3 inches tall. Alfalfa seedlings should be at the three- to four-leaf stage at that time. Since glyphosate is less expensive than most other herbicides used on alfalfa, this will also save money. Not only that, but glyphosate won’t slow down the growth of alfalfa seedlings like other herbicides, so first-year yield may be a little higher.

That’s all there is to it. If you take care of your part of this process, then the special seed coating, the excellent weed control with no crop injury and a little cooperation from Mother Nature will give you good stands from less seed.  FG

Bruce Anderson is an extension forage specialist with the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.