Why My Hay Stands Don’t Remain Productive

This is because, as the famous agronomist Ev Thomas says: an accumulation of insults. Very frequent cutting by farms refusing to utilize wide swath means that, as research clearly shows, driving on the field to harvest 5 days after mowing is a 25% yield reduction in the next cutting from crushed regrowth points.To make sure the alfalfa doesn’t grow we spread manure several days or weeks after that and further crush the regrowth points that did make it. Tire strips of weeds increasingly occupy more of the field. Add to that the late harvests in a desperate attempt to get the maximum amount out of the crop exposes the crop crown to the full impact of winter and ice sheets. But wait!! We aren’t finished with the insults yet. With the low prices stockyard beef price and low milk prices, we have completely forgotten liming – yet spend bazillion (agronomic technical term) dollars for the latest genetic alfalfa that still will not grow in low pH. The stress of low pH and the wet soils of the past three years has overwhelmed the disease resistance built into the crop and the plants are dying out. This is especially true on marginal soils where it was iffy to plant alfalfa any way – but if you are a real farmer you are supposed to grow just corn and alfalfa. I am not trying to dump on already stressed farmers. Just pointing out the reality of much of our present forage production and how it takes the legs out of the profitability for which you worked so hard and keeps you from achieving the potentially more profitable high forage diets. Are we expecting the impossible? Note: this article was written for alfalfa fields in New York, but has application for any hay field. ~ excerpt from Thomas Kilcer, Crop Soil News, June 2020

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