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Alfalfa

How and how much to water

Alfalfa is a perennial plant; its taproot roots reach deep into the ground. This feature makes it, among other things, very useful for restoring the fertility of the soils on which it is grown. The leaves differ from those of clovers because although they are also collected in groups of three, they have a petiole, unlike those of clovers. This herb, originally from Asia but widespread in many Italian regions, prefers soils rich in calcium, not too dry. It is also true, however, that coming from arid regions, it tolerates poor irrigation well during the vegetative period. It should therefore not be watered excessively during the summer, but rather must take care that the soil is well drained. Despite being a large consumer of water, it is also among the most drought-resistant forage crops. Its roots, capable of reaching deep, are able to ensure the plant the necessary water supply, looking for water in the soil. On the contrary, during the resting phase, it is less sensitive to humidity. In summary, alfalfa should only be watered when the climate is very dry and for a long time.

How to grow and care for it


Soil with a pH of around 7, therefore non-acidic, and well drained, is the best substrate for growing alfalfa. Sowing is generally done in spring, but it can also be done in late August or early September, in order to allow young plants to develop the root system that will allow them to accumulate reserves to survive the winter. The seeds are very small and before sowing it is advisable to plow the soil in depth, up to about 40 centimeters, even if the seed must be buried by a maximum of one centimeter. Alfalfa is available in many varieties: this offers the possibility to choose the best one for your land. For example, some varieties are called dormant due to their peculiarity of entering the resting phase during the winter and withstanding it better.

How and when to fertilize


Before even worrying about the fertilization of alfalfa, it must be borne in mind that the plant needs good amounts of potassium and phosphorus. These substances must therefore be present in sufficient doses in the soil, to ensure a luxuriant growth of the plants. It is the case of fertilizing the soil before sowing, but even better if it is done even before plowing, so as to make the roots that go deep into the nourishment necessary for a robust development of the plant. The fertilizer in the form of cover sewage, on the other hand, should not be administered, in order not to favor the growth of weeds. After the harvest of alfalfa, and during the subsequent vegetative restart, it is advisable to administer a light dosage of nitrogen, about 20 – 30 kilograms per hectare.

Alfalfa: Exposure, Diseases, and Remedies


Alfalfa prefers sunny soils, but its different varieties adapt to the mild climates of the south and also to the decidedly more rigid climates of the northern regions. This is because during the resting phase it does not fear frost. In a particularly favorable habitat it could live beyond 10 years, but it is usually cultivated for 3 – 4 years. The most common adversities for alfalfa crops are root rot due to Fusarium roseum or other types of fungi. These fight each other by making the soil very well drained. The parasites that can attack alfalfa are the Apion, aphids and the weevil, which attacks the leaves, or the “alfalfa measuring cup” which feeds on shoots. They must be fought with specific and targeted products. Weeds that can creep into alfalfa, in general, they are counteracted by the plant itself and chemical weeding is not recommended, except in case of real need. The enemy of alfalfa is dodder, a parasitic plant that envelops the stems of alfalfa and causes them to thin out.

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