Renewable Farming

How to upgrade alfalfa yield and quality with WakeUP Spring — profitably

We’ve found alfalfa is a delightful and very responsive crop to foliar feed with WakeUP Spring, which is formulated to amplify nutrient flow through the phloem systems of crops.  When alfalfa can pump more sugars from photosynthetic chlorophyll cells into roots, stems and storage cells, nutrient quality and density of alfalfa rises sharply.

July 20, 2017 — Our experience with WakeUP on alfalfa extends back nine years, when we first tested the original formula. Gradually, growers around the country began telling us their results. One of the most detailed reports on yield and feed value came from a Montana grower who pivot-irrigates in 120-acre circles. He ground-sprayed 60 acres, half of the circle, with an older version of WakeUP on alfalfa in early spring, as the alfalfa reached about five inches in height.  The recommended rate in those days was 10 ounces per acre (we’ve trimmed it to 5 ounces with our new formulation for this purpose, called WakeUP Spring). Our second formulation, WakeUP Summer, is a surfactant and leaf cleanser for quick nutrient penetration, and internal carrier of foliar nutrients.

The lab result shows up in the chart below. These results are on a dry weight basis.

Lab analysis of alfalfa foliar-sprayed with WakeUP


The chart shows a near-doubling of the percentage of crude protein.

Below are some printed lab results on these same tests, showing more detailed information on fiber and net energy. The first table is untreated with WakeUP, the second one treated.

We strongly encourage grain and forage testing with WakeUP, and without, so growers can get a closer appreciation of nutrient density. 

Farmers who feed their own grain and forages are usually willing to do that. Even if they don’t, some results usually show up in grain test weights. Corn foliar-fed with WakeUP and micronutrients typically shows one to three pounds more test weight. 

There aren’t many “yield boosters” which we’ve seen that consistently raise relative feed value of alfalfa almost 50%.

In Southern states, farmers see good response to WakeUP Spring with pasture grasses like coastal bermuda.

In the past several years, we’ve accumulated WakeUP customers among Minnesota dairymen, even though we haven’t promoted WakeUP for alfalfa as much as with other crops. They simply hear about it from satisfied users! Dairymen are great clients because they feed their own crops, and can see the nutritional benefits of good alfalfa in the bulk tank. One advocate for us is Ron Monson, a Minnesota dairy nutritionist.  His dairymen report that cows find increased palatability in the “good hay and haylage” from using WakeUP Spring

These dairymen spray first in early spring as alfalfa begins actively growing, then they spray after each cutting when regrowth reaches two to five inches. The late-summer spray treatments can also be tank-mixed with trace elements and applications of nutrients such as phosphorus and calcium. Any need for added nutrients can be fine-tuned using tissue and sap analysis of the new growth.

So there’s still time to give your alfalfa an extra nudge, possibly for that third and final cutting when the opportunity for really high-quality hay occurs.

Farmers tell us that corn silage quality also improves when the corn is foliar-sprayed with WakeUP between early tasseling and brown silk. That takes a high-clearance sprayer, but many farmers are already making a sprayer pass about that time for late fungicide or foliar feeding. One Southeastern grower had a feed analysis done on his corn silage, which had normally come in at around 8.5% over the past few years, and found that the WakeUP treated silage showed 10.36% protein. Relative feed value was 122; total digestible nutrients was 68%.


Corn silage and stalklage feed value
after WakeUP treatment

Encouraged by this data at silage harvest time, the farmer also tested the dry stalklage from other corn he had sprayed with WakeUP around V4 and harvested for grain. The Relative Feed Value of stalklage was 83, TDN was 61 and crude protein was 9.57. Yields were also good, although he didn’t measure exactly for any differences between treated and untreated corn.  He said the savings in protein supplement alone needed to balance dairy rations more than paid for the cost of both the product and the spraying. That analysis was done several years ago, so the version of WakeUP used was a much older formulation than the one we’re using now.

And below is a photo from another farmer trial with alfalfa. This is the second year after seeding. The right side of the photo shows a section of the field sprayed three times with the older version of WakeUP the previous season, so there has been time for roots to really express themselves. A substantial part of alfalfa’s response to WakeUP is increased proliferation of beneficial mycorrhizal growth on roots. As you know, alfalfa already has a massive root system. Pumping more sugars from leaves to roots means more abundant root exudates, which feed the helpful soil organisms. In turn, the fungi and beneficial bacteria dissolve more mineral nutrients in the soil, making them available to a larger root system.

The second-year result is quite clear in the treated section of the field, below, versus the untreated.

In this photo of a Missouri alfalfa field, it’s evident which side was
sprayed repeatedly with WakeUP and foliar nutrients the season before.

We saw somewhat the same second-season impact more recently, without expecting it. In 2009, we sprayed oats at about 10 inches in height, where alfalfa was seeded and the oats used as a nurse crop. Our intent was to measure the oat yield in several plots, so WakeUP was applied in test strips.  There was about a 10% gain in oats yield. But in that field in 2010 (the following season), the alfalfa looked unusually lush in the strips where we’d sprayed oats with WakeUP the spring before, in 2009. Then it dawned: The previous spring when we sprayed, alfalfa had emerged, and some of the spray intended for oats also “treated” the young alfalfa. That impact was expressed as the alfalfa grew through the fall, then came back with fresh growth the following spring.

Alfalfa was more lush in strips sprayed with WakeUP on oats the previous spring


Including nutrients in a WakeUP-powered foliar spray on alfalfa has a special “extra boost” because the WakeUP helps the nutrients move into the leaf and through the alfalfa’s metabolism. We tissue-tested after a WakeUP Spring spray on alfalfa which also contained a trace element blend. The tissue tests at Midwest Labs showed a distinct improvement in nutrient transfer, as documented in the chart below:

We’ll have a couple more bits of “alfalfa evidence” as they’re retrieved from our research files. One of the confirming observations: We were able to raise “solid stem alfalfa.” This was a challenge laid down by Dr. Dan Skow, renowned veterinarian and crop consultant and one of the founders of International Ag Labs. He often started this alfalfa discussion with the opener, “Have you ever mowed your alfalfa, then come back to windrow it and wondered where it went?”  Doc Skow said that alfalfa — really nutrient-dense alfalfa — should have a stem that’s completely filled with pith, and stem walls that are thick but not tough.  Here’s what we did, with help of WakeUP and some mineral nutrition plus calcium and phosphate, foliar fed:

Solid stemmed alfalfa: This is what it takes
to get high tonnage of really nutritious hay

Call us for more information on how to use late-summer foliar feeding of alfalfa with WakeUP!   Erik  319-610-2506   Jerry  319-240-4547