February 8, 2017
Establishing a stand
A successful, high yield potential alfalfa crop begins with 20 to 30
healthy seedlings per square foot. Obtaining that kind of stand can
be influenced by a number of items, including: site selection, land
preparation, a firm seedbed, proper planting depth, product
choice, planting date, planting depth, seeding rate, planter
calibration, pest control, seed inoculation, environment, and other
factors. Selecting alfalfa seed coated with the right combination
of fungicide, growth promoter, Sinorhizobium meliloti bacteria,
and a protective seed coating can help ensure early-season vigor,
improved stand, enhanced root system development, healthier
seedlings, and longer stand life.
The 34% seed coating decreases seed mortality, resulting in
higher seedling survival rates (up to 100% higher than
unprotected seed), and equal or higher number of seedlings per
acre with the same pounds per acre of product. The result is more
healthy seedlings per acre and higher yield potential from the
thicker, healthier stands. The target for strong alfalfa stand
establishment is not the actual number of seeds planted per acre,
but is determined by the number of successfully established
seedlings that become harvestable plants.
What is in a seed coating?
Monsanto’s alfalfa seed coating consists of: 1) a seed treatment
that can promote early-season vigor, 2) Rhizobium meliloti
bacteria to promote nitrogen-fixing nodule development, 3)
fungicide to help fight early-season diseases such as
phytophthora, pythium, and downy mildew, and 4) a lime-based
coating with sulfur and molybdenum. The coating provides an ideal
environment that can improve moisture absorption, germination
percentage and nodulation. Monsanto’s alfalfa seed coating
increases the weight of the seed by 34%.
Seeding rate and planter calibration
University and commercial research shows that coated seed
should be planted at the same pounds/acre rate as uncoated seed.
Planting 34% coated seed can result in approximately 30% fewer
seeds planted per acre. However, because of the benefits provided
by the seed coating, final seedling stands should be equal to or
higher than with uncoated seed. Research also shows that
seedling survival rate should be higher with coated seed.
Because 34% coated seed weighs more than uncoated seed, the
seed will flow through planting equipment at a different rate than
uncoated seed. Some research trials have shown that coated seed actually flows approximately 30% faster than uncoated seed.
Alfalfa growers should carefully calibrate planters for the specific
seed they are planting to help ensure they are planting the desired
number of pounds/acre. Always refer to the manufacturer’s
manual before performing any maintenance.
Alfalfa seed coating: 1) promotes early-season vigor, 2) increases
seedling survival rates and stands, 3) includes seed treatment to
help manage early-season diseases, and 4) can result in fewer
seeds planted, but provides benefits that uncoated seed may not
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