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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Alfalfa Crop Unharmed by Early Frost

LAS CRUCES -- Early freezing temperatures should not affect the state's alfalfa crop, according to a New Mexico State University agronomist.


"A few days ago, we had our first killing frost, temperatures in the range of 25 to 26 degrees Farenheit," said Shane Ball with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "Producers were concerned because many of the last cuttings of alfalfa had not been harvested."

Alfalfa is a tough crop and can withstand a number of freezes, Ball said. However, frost, drought and weed sprays can cause nitrates to accumulate in plants like alfalfa.

"A few counties had some early frost damage, but because of an expected number of warm days in the 70s and 80s, the alfalfa will begin to grow again," Ball said. "This also will take care of high nitrate content in the hay. Nitrates will re-mobilize and be converted back into amino acids."

When the alfalfa begins to grow again, producers should quickly get it out of the field, he said.

The 1996 alfalfa harvest may be even better than last year, Ball said. Acreage is slightly higher, yields are average to good, and prices are expected to increase this winter.

"Alfalfa is the number one cash crop in the state," Ball said. "The demand for alfalfa is extremely high. A lot of the demand is for the dairies, both in the Mesilla Valley and the Pecos Valley, as well as those people who are feeding hay to their horses at the race tracks."

Ball said alfalfa prices are excellent for farmers throughout the state.

"The situation for prices comparing last year to this year is on average higher -- $10 to $20 per ton higher -- if you're looking at premium or top quality," he said. "The forecast for now and through the winter is very good for those who have been growing hay and have hay to sell."