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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
i have a small (4 acre) field i'm considering planting in alfalfa/orchard grass for hay.i was wondering how many hives it would support if i let it go to half bloom and also if i let it go to full bloom and then cut.
i plan to sow the alfalfa this spring and no till drill the orchard grass this fall.
any thoughts?
thanks,
T.J.
 

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Alfalfa does not yield ever where. Here in KY I have had bees work alfalfa 3 times in 30 years. Usually follows a wet spring with a hot dry summer. Alfalfa needs to be stressed to yield. When it is yielding you can smell a sweet smell much like locust. My best year I made 3 med supers/colony. the weather in Wisconsin and montana is much more favorable to alfalfa honey. I'm not sure in your area, I would assume If you let it go to full bloom you might support 3-4 hives, but you will loose hay quality.
 

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If you let it go to full bloom you might support 3-4 hives, but you will loose hay quality.

Even if you let it go to full bloom, the bees may decide they like something better twice as far in the opposite direction.

Bees work the surrounding 6,000 acres or so. 4 acres is about one half of 1/10th of a percent of the area they forage. When you look at it from that perspective, the 4 acres would be better served as an extra pollen/nectar source to fill in tiny gaps, rather than trying to support X number of hives with 4 acres.
 

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Alfalfa is not the best forage nutritionally for the honeybee. It is on the low side of the essential amino-acid Iso-leucine. Also, the lucerne flower kicks the bee when the anther is tripped. If they have more attactive forage blooming at the same time alfalfa is they may not work it as much as you would hope. Makes good hay for livestock.
 

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My neighbor has 40 acres of alfafa across the road (less than a quarter mile from my hives) and i rarley see bees working it. I have planted many different things for bees over the years and the only plant that hasn't failed to have bees working it is buckweat,and they only work it in the mourning till noon. My fields and my neighbors were covered white with dutch clover the last two years and they didn't start working it till late summer? All we can do is try, sometimes it works and sometimes it don't.:s Jack
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
thanks for the help/advice i appreciate it.i'm not trying for alfalfa "only" honey.there is alot of white dutch clover in nearby pastures and the woods are full of tulip poplar. am i right thinking the "girls" like the poplar?
i thought about buckwheat but what do you do with the crop? i can sell the hay to local farmers for a pretty good price.that is why i'm considering alfalfa.
thanks again,
T.J.
 

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i thought about buckwheat but what do you do with the crop? i can sell the hay to local farmers for a pretty good price.that is why i'm considering alfalfa.

If you know anyone locally who is allergic to gluten, they usually love the opportunity to get buckwheat.

Grow it for seed. Sell seed to local beekeepers, or sell seed on eBay. Sell buckwheat seed for wildlife food plots - deer and turkeys both love buckwheat.

You can also make hay with buckwheat.

Buckwheat seed has about 90% the nutritional value of oats, so you can use it as livestock feed.

Or use it to build up the soil. Buckwheat is a scavenger, and can grab phosphorus and turn it into a form other plants can easily use the next year when the buckwheat fodder decomposes.

When looking at the financial value of your hay crop, don't forget to look at the price of the fertilizer needed to rebuild the soil. Nothing strips a soil of its nutrients faster than making hay.
 

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more than about 10% buckwheat in cattle feed can lead to blisters on your cattle it does not always do it but sometimes it can I use it for a cover crop on my garden and let the calves graze it the next spring but just be careful of that
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
again, thanks for all the help.i guess i need to do some research on buckwheat.

how early or late can you plant it?from what i've read it is planted june15-july1 in Ohio.what does the soil temp need to be? What temp does buckwheat like?
also,i've read it starts flowering about 3 weeks after planting and continues till frost. right?

Counrtyboy,your right about the cost of fertilizer.i was planning to use chicken litter on the alfalfa/orchard grass mix - the alfalfa wont need the nitrogen but the orchard grass can use it. how would buckwheat respond to chicken litter?

thanks,
T.J.
 

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Here in SW Mo. i plant it june 5, but anytime after first frost date. Buckweat will flower 3 weeks after planting but after it goes too seed (seed gets dark and hard) you need to disk it under. I have got 3 crops a year this way and sometimes 4, depending on the weather of course.I have used just a rotary mower on the tractor on it without disking it, and it worked fair, the birds really work on the seed. But if your a dove hunter :thumbsup:.Don't know about the chicken litter, but don't know why not. When i was a kid at home we used cicken manure, is this what your calling cicken litter? on the garden but you have to be careful with it, to much in one spot will burn out about anything you plant there. Good luck and hope this helps. Jack
 

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We have a viney crop that we call "wild buckwheat" that grows in our wheat fields, it has a heart shaped leaf. It will wrap around a combine shaft and you have to cut it off, it is tough as rope! Is the buckwheat you are talking about anything like I discribed?
 

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how early or late can you plant it?from what i've read it is planted june15-july1 in Ohio.what does the soil temp need to be? What temp does buckwheat like?
also,i've read it starts flowering about 3 weeks after planting and continues till frost. right?


You can plant it anytime after last frost, as frost will kill buckwheat. If you are growing it for seed, you need to plant it by mid-July in order for it to set seed before frost.

Buckwheat likes cooler days and nights. It does better in later summer, and yields more nectar. It doesn't really like it when it is really hot - the leaves start to curl like they are dehydrating in the hot sun, but they come back during the night.

Counrtyboy,your right about the cost of fertilizer.i was planning to use chicken litter on the alfalfa/orchard grass mix - the alfalfa wont need the nitrogen but the orchard grass can use it. how would buckwheat respond to chicken litter?

High nitrogen will cause lodging. (plants falling over) Chicken manure is high in nitrogen. If it doesn't burn the buckwheat, expect the buckwheat to fall over (lodging). Lodging is only a problem if you intend to harvest the buckwheat crop. If you are going to disk it in, lodging will be of little concern to you.

We have a viney crop that we call "wild buckwheat" that grows in our wheat fields, it has a heart shaped leaf.

That sounds like field bindweed. Around here I see more hedge bindweed than field bindweed, but field bindweed has a more heart shaped leaf.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
thanks for the help.
how long after buckwheat flowers does it go to seed? in other words how long does flowering last?
brooksbeefarm,yes-that is what i mean by chicken litter.the things i learned about putting it on my garden is dont put it any where near strawberries and be careful around tomatos.
i do have an analysis of a sample of litter i sent off around here somewhere.i'll see if i can find it.
thanks again,
T.J.
 

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Here in NC, if you want a decent price on alfalfa, you can't let it get into bloom stage for a good hay. I have planted buckwheat over my garden area for a "cover crop". If you wanted a grain, maybe soybeans. The bees seem to work the blooms well here.
 

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how long after buckwheat flowers does it go to seed? in other words how long does flowering last?

Buckwheat begins blooming about 3-4 weeks after planting. It starts setting seed about 10 weeks. 12 weeks is the usual time to harvest seed.

Buckwheat is an indeterminate crop. This means it flowers continuously until frost, and sets seed continuously until frost kills it.

However, while it will still produce SOME flowers up until killing frost, flower production drops off after 10-12 weeks when seed matures. Ideally if you wanted heavy flowering, you would keep your plants 6-10 weeks old.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
farmchick,
the bees work soybeans? i've never noticed it before.i guess i need to pay more attention :doh: there are quite a few beans planted around here.i may already have a guy wanting all the alfalfa/orchardgrass hay i produce.it doesn't matter to him if i let it go to somewhere between 1/2 to 3/4 bloom.
Countryboy,
i may have to try some buckwheat.i have a few small areas to use as test plots.
again thanks for all the help.i really appreciate it.
T.J.
 

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T.J. I planted some buckwheat this past fall to help get my hives built up in Jamestown. I planted it where we had torn down 4 old chicken houses. It grew better off the pads. I probably had about 3/4 acre. The bees jump on it quick. Funny thing about buckwheat is the nectar is available in the mornings and then the bees move to something else later in the day. I planted it in the first of August, but still had good bloom till frost. I will try for mid to early July this year. Buckwheat is suppose to supply large amounts of nectar.

Mark
 
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