Scout Forage Fields Now Created by rrummel on 3/15/2014 11:26:29 AM
Plants are breaking dormancy
Forage producers need to get out into
their fields to assess the health of plants as they begin to break dormancy
after a particularly harsh winter, a Purdue Extension forage specialist says.
Forages growing in areas affected by
below-zero temperatures during periods of no snow cover are the most at risk
for damage because snow serves as insulation for the plants and protects them from
bitter cold. Low-lying parts of fields where snow accumulated and then iced
over also are at risk for loss from suffocation.
"The lesson here is to get out
there and observe those fields," Keith Johnson said. "Now is the time. As the
crop breaks dormancy, producers need to check to see if plant green-up is
occurring. If that's not happening after several days with temperatures in the
50s and 60s, it's time for concern."
Green-up usually happens around the
third week of March in southern Indiana, then 10 or more days later in the
northernmost part of the state.
Listen to Johnson talk about assessing
Although soils have stayed frozen for
most of the winter, Johnson said alfalfa growers still should pay attention to
root heaving. When some soils, especially those that are saturated and with
some clay, go through multiple freeze and thaw cycles, it can push the alfalfa
plant up out of the ground.
Other areas of plants that should be
inspected include the crown and taproot.
"Growers should take a tool along
with them as they scout so they can slice into the crown of a few plants to see
if the bud tissue is cream-colored and green," Johnson said. "They
also can inspect the root for cream-colored tissue. If they find dark brown
tissue, that's not a good sign."
Farmers who find problems in their
fields have a few options to remedy them.
If the problem is severe enough,
Johnson said it might mean using land previously intended for another crop to
instead start a new forage stand. But if the problem area is limited to one
large section of a field, it might be possible to start over just in that area.
"Farmers do have the option to
patchwork in new seed in areas of loss, but they need to be aware that it will
be a little bit tricky to manage for the first season because forages will need
to be harvested at different times," Johnson said.
Listen to Johnson talk about
rehabilitating damaged forage stands.
For fields where the stand might be
thin, producers can consider over-seeding. Using a broadcast seeder on an
all-terrain vehicle is typically a preferred method to avoid taking tractors
and drills into soggy fields.
But before growers over-seed, Johnson
said they need to look carefully at soil fertility and residual overgrowth and
develop a plan to fix any problems.
"Growers need to look for
underlying issues that would cause seedling failure," he said. "Some
of those issues include low soil pH and poor fertility. They need to make sure
that residual growth from 2013 is no more than 4 inches tall so that the seed
can reach the soil surface.
"Also, overseeding alfalfa seed
into a field that currently has alfalfa is risky because the currently
established alfalfa produces a chemical that hampers the establishment of new
The timing of over-seeding also is
crucial. Johnson said broadcast seeding should be done at green-up because
seedlings will have to compete with perennial plants breaking winter dormancy.