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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 91 No. 6, p. 902-910
    Received: Apr 27, 1998

    * Corresponding author(s): v-haby@tamu.edu
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Response of Overseeded Alfalfa and Bermudagrass to Alfalfa Row Spacing and Nitrogen Rate

  1. Vincent A. Haby *a,
  2. J. V. Davisa and
  3. A. T. Leonarda
  1.  aTexas A&M Univ. Agric. Res. & Ext. Ctr., P.O. Box 200, Overton, TX 75684-0200, Texas Agric. Exp. Stn., Texas A&M Univ. System USA


Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) is a rare forage crop on Coastal Plain soils. Acid soils, wet conditions, and the prevalence of perennial, warm-season grasses limit alfalfa production. Development of grazing-tolerant varieties raised interest in growing alfalfa on the Coastal Plain. This three-year dryland field study was conducted to evaluate coincident production of `Alfagraze' alfalfa and `Coastal' bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.] as a sustainable forage system. Limestone (effective calcium carbonate equivalence ECCE 72%) at a rate of 6.1 t ha−1 was incorporated by roto-tilling 15 cm deep in an established sod of Coastal bermudagrass on a Darco loamy fine sand (loamy, siliceous, thermic Grossarenic Paleudults) in late winter 1990, with an additional 3 t ha−1 surface-applied in June 1991. Alfalfa was seeded in October 1990 at 23, 46, 69, and 92 cm between rows in main plots of a split-plot design. Nitrogen rates from 0 to 112 kg ha−1 in increments of 28 kg ha−1 were applied to subplots for every bermudagrass regrowth cycle. Other plant nutrients (including P, K, Mg, S, B, Zn, and Cu) were applied at rates considered adequate for alfalfa on a low-fertility soil. Yield of alfalfa at the 23-cm row spacing in 1991 was 8.8 t ha−1 and declined to 6.7 t ha−1 at 69 cm ( P = 0.05), while yield of bermudagrass increased from 3.2 to 5.7 t ha−1, respectively, at these row spacings. In 1992, alfalfa yield increased an additional 2.2 t ha−1 at each row spacing, with a compensating decline in bermudagrass production. Alfalfa yielded 11 t ha−1 at all row spacings in 1993, despite a midseason drought, while bermudagrass yield was <450 kg ha−1 Row spacing had no effect on total forage production in any year. Higher N rates increased bermudagrass yield the first two years. Applied N increased alfalfa yield at certain harvests, but had no effect on total annual production. Crude protein in alfalfa declined or remained similar as row spacing was widened. Soil pH was lowered by increasing N rates and by narrower alfalfa row spacings. Results indicate that alfalfa competes well with Coastal bermudagrass, even in drought conditions.

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