PRESS BULLETIN No. 66.
Florida Agricultural Experiment Station.
BY P. H. ROLFS.
The fact that Florida needs a winter forage plant is so well known
to every one who has attempted to keep live stock here, that no argu-
ments in this line need be produced. We have an abundance of sum-
mer and fall forage, which stock may secure either by grazing or by hav-
ing it fed to them. The one thing we lack, however, is a green forage
or pasture crop for the winter. Rye and oats have been used for many
years, but are expensive and more or less uncertain.
KIND OF LAND TO USE.
Alfalfa should be planted upon land that is rated at least as first-
class farming land. The field should be prepared as thoroughly as
would be the case for either grain or corn. The land should have per-
fect drainage, but should not be of a loose sandy character. Alfalfa
planted on sandy land underlaid with clay has been most nearly successful.
STILL AN, EXPERIMENT.-Hundreds of attempts have been made
to secure a good stand of alfalfa, and to make the field productive. In
a number of cases the experiment has been so nearly successful that
people have declared that they had reached the successful point. Up
to the present, however, no field of alfalfa has yet succeeded in growing
through the second winter and producing a crop of hay during the ensu-
ing year. Numerous plots have been sown and have produced an
abundant crop of fine alfalfa hay, but these plots failed completely either
during the late fall or early winter; so that we can say that the experi-
ment has reached the point where it has been almost successful, and
yet not quite. Good fields of alfalfa have been produced near Dade
City, Leesburg, Monticello, and De Funiak. Probably the most nearly
successful field was that grown by Mr. C. K. McQuarrie at De Funiak.
From this field Mr. McQuarrie secured alfalfa hay at the rate of several
tons to the acre.
Mr. Coburn, in his book on Alfalfa, states that quantities all the
way from six to sixty pounds per acre are recommended. He calculates
that if fifteen pounds be used, and all the seed germinate, it would give
us forty-four plants to the square foot. This of course would be alto-
gether too many plants. As we would not expect every seed to make
a plant, it will probably be best to sow the seed fairly thickly.
September 30, 1907.
HOW TO SOW.-The most usual way of sowing alfalfa is to sow it
broadcast. For experimental work it would probably be better to sow it
in drills, especially if one were sowing only a fraction of an acre. With
drills it is a great deal easier to keep down weeds that might come up
to choke out the seedlings. Ordinarily there is very little trouble from
this source, however, and it will be found that broadcast sowing does
TIME TO SOW.-The best time to sow alfalfa in Florida is during
the fall of the year. Just what time in the fall is best will depend upon
climatic conditions. If the soil is moist, and the heavy rains have ceased
to fall, any time during October and the early part of November will be
proper. This will give the plants sufficient time to make a considerable
root growth before the winter arrives. During the winter the young
plants will make only a small top growth, but the roots will penetrate more
deeply into the the soil and produce a good system before spring.
When the early spring rains begin it will be necessary to remove any
large weeds or grass coming up in the field, either by mowing them off,
or by having them hoed out.
Under favorable conditions, two or three tons of hay may be made
from an acre. This hay, when well cured, is worth at least $20 a ton.
Considering the value of alfalfa hay, it will pay to sow fresh seed every
year, even if the plants should all die out the second fall. as has been
REPORTS OF SUCCESS.
Repeated reports of complete success with alfalfa have been seen
in the various papers of the State. Officers of the Experiment Station
have made it a point to investigate all of these carefully. In some cases
it was found that these reports were circulated before the alfalfa field
was one year old. Success up to this point is no unusual occurrence.
Other reports of success have been investigated and were found to
be based on erroneous identification. Frequently people have mistaken
sweet clover (Melilotus) for alfalfa. This crop, of course, can be grown,
and the plant occurs in many portions of the State as a weed. It is,
however, very much inferior to alfalfa for a forage, and also as a soil-
For a time it was thought that inoculating the soil with the nitrogen-
fixing organisms would overcome the difficulty of alfalfa failures. A
great many experiments have been made with the commercial cultures,
with cultures from the Department of Agriculture, and with soil taken
from alfalfa fields. Most of the experiments with cultures have proven
complete failures, and where they have been successful they have given
results inferior to those obtained by the use of soil from alfalfa fields.