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Can Alfalfa reseed itself?

 
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What I'd like to try is to leave random stands of alfalfa in my patch to blossom and go to seed.  Would those seeds scatter themselves and grow?  Why does "the internet" say that alfalfa doesn't reseed itself?  
 
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I have a few volunteer plants in a few areas, but they are very patchy. Given the number of seeds they produce, they should be everywhere.

My understanding is that young alfalfa plants are very delicate and don't generally survive in soil alongside old alfalfa plants (autotoxicity) or with any sort of weed competition.
 
pollinator
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Mostly the answer is no.  You will get some limited reseed.  The reason it doesn't work is alfalfa releases alleopathic chemicals into the ground.  This prevents the germination of most of the alfalfa seed you put down around the plant.
 
Hannah Johnson
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Cool, thanks for the responses!

Would a realistic alternative be to gather seeds and plant them somewhere else?
 
Hannah Johnson
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Yeah, I've noticed the delicacy of the baby plants even when not competing with any established plants. I have been following local advice to plant alfalfa at the same time as a cereal, which makes great greens for animals while protecting the baby alfalfa.
 
C. Letellier
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Hannah Johnson wrote:Cool, thanks for the responses!

Would a realistic alternative be to gather seeds and plant them somewhere else?



Very much viable to plant elsewhere.  Be sure the seeds achieve maturity before gathering.  In this area they grow a lot of seed but because our frost cycle they hit the plants with an herbicide to rush maturity.  Since that plants are no longer listed as safe for feed they used to burn the residue.  For many years the neighbor used to bale the residue of other farmers fields to bring back for organic matter.  But he figured he got 10 to 25 lbs worth of seed per round bale too.  Then they changed admistrators of the program and now the residue is no longer allowed to leave the farmer's land.  So most of it is baled and then piled and burned.  Worse yet all the residue must be counted as destroyed by Jan 1 so even using it to heat shops etc is out.

At any rate most of the seed will not germinate unless you achieve seed maturity.  If the seed is still green inside the whorl it is not mature.  If it frosts before maturity the seed stops maturing.  Nice thing is testing germination of seed gathered is really easy.

Typical rule of thumb is they want at least 1 year of something else between go rounds of alfalfa.  Most common in this area is a year of corn or soghum for their high nitrogen demand.  This also gives a year for broad leaf weed control before replanting alfalfa plus the time for the aleopathic chemical to break down so it will germinate.
 
Hannah Johnson
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C. Letellier wrote: Worse yet all the residue must be counted as destroyed by Jan 1 so even using it to heat shops etc is out.



Ohh bureaucracy....

We rarely have hard frosts here (with watering, alfalfa thrives year around once established) but I'll still keep the timing in mind.
 
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Alfalfa grows wild all over the badlands surrounding my community. How it got there one can only guess.
 
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C. Letellier wrote:Mostly the answer is no.  You will get some limited reseed.  The reason it doesn't work is alfalfa releases alleopathic chemicals into the ground.  This prevents the germination of most of the alfalfa seed you put down around the plant.



When we were planting our hay field after more than a decade of being pasture, then another decade of being left to itself, my father-in-law (who was a "conventional" dairy farmer until the 1980's) seemed to me to be a bit paranoid about any remaining alfalfa plants in the field the season before we seeded it.  He said that they absolutely had to be gone so that the new alfalfa seed would germinate.  
 
Hannah Johnson
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Alfalfa is a rather wonderful plant.  If it were a person, I'd want to interview it for a few hours.  What makes you happy? Who are your friends?  What makes you not want to keep growing in the same place for too long?  Is this a clue to your purpose? Are you a pioneer?  Is your job to team up with other plants we haven't considered?
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I'm guessing that for such a significant, conventional crop, there are too many stakeholders concerned with the effects autotoxicity for it to be a mere misdiagnosis of a soil imbalance?  "The internet" tells me the actual compounds causing autotoxicity are not fully understood (though they have suspects).

I noticed at minute 2:30 of Neil Kinsey's Hands On Soil Agronomy video, he mentions an alfalfa field that lost productivity.  He goes on to say that on a simple soil test, the pH can look great-- but in a more detailed analyses, the pH could look great and there still be an excess or lack of key pH-influencing minerals.  But surely major stakeholders including researchers like Purdue University ("U" being a silly abbreviation for University) wouldn't overlook this... would they?  I really wish Mr. Kinsey had come back to that particular alfalfa case! Can a detailed soil test and adjustments solve the problem?

This possibly dated article from Purdue. https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/AY/AY-324-W.pdf shows that seedlings within 15" of the established plant are most effected.

The wild alfalfa thriving in the badlands-- is it growing densely, or is it scattered among things like wild sages and grasses?  

Could Alfalfa and Dandelions be friends?  Both are edible.  Both have roots that dig deep for nutrients.  Our neighbors have an alfalfa patch that just won't die.  A couple times a year, they bring in a pair of young bulls to graze it short in the period of 2 or 3 weeks (and thus fertilize it, too).  The effect is noticeable, but what I notice is the increasing density of dandelions.

I have 5-7 years to wait before I can experienced with a thinning alfalfa cover of my own.  I look forward to leaving a small section of that indefinitely and seeing what nature does with it.
 
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