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Orchardgrass-alfalfa seeding study

Orchardgrass has two major issues when grown in combination with alfalfa in the Northeast. The grass matures too early and it tends to be too aggressive with alfalfa. Satin orchardgrass is promoted as a late maturing cultivar that does not crowd out alfalfa when seeded at 0.5 to 1.0 lbs/acre. We established seeding trials at two sites in NY at Ithaca (good soil) and Mt. Pleasant (marginal stony soil) in 2003 [GIS-14]. Spring growth in late May of 2004 was sampled and grass and alfalfa were separated.

Orchardgrass was a smaller component of the mixture at the marginal site. Satin was clearly less competitive with alfalfa than OKAY, except at the high rate of seeding on the good soil. The only seeding rate resulting in less than 50% grass in the mixed stand was the 0.5 lbs/acre of Satin on a marginal soil. On a good soil, OKAY was very competitive with alfalfa, regardless of the seeding rate. Although this study was not continued for an additional year, the percentage of orchardgrass in a stand with alfalfa will most likely increase as the stand ages, particularly on sites not ideal for alfalfa.


  • Orchardgrass seeding rate is site-dependent.
  • A half pound/acre of orchardgrass seed may be sufficient with good soil conditions.
  • Satin orchardgrass was less competitive, particularly at low seeding rates.