Willamette Valley Conditions to Impact Fall Seed Availability

Affectionately known as the “The Valley”, Willamette Valley is a fertile growing region, where most of the forage type grass seed is produced in the US. Acreage is highly sought after, and every acre counts in the final production yield for all companies that have ownership in the Valley. This year, several challenges are mounting up, and are likely to reduce the overall production of many cool season grass seed crops, including novel endophyte tall fescue.In the past few years, acreage requirements of other crops have continued to trend upwards. This upward trend has gained the attention of prospective growers, but fortunately, the forage seed production acreage is set.

The Valley is ideal for more than just forage seed production, including an ever-present population of voles. The cyclical nature of The Valley’s vole population peaked this last year, resulting in the highest population numbers in the last decade. Voles damage plants, both above and below the ground, resulting in a significant reduction in yield. Plowing out production fields and rotating crops are two of the methods being employed which result in further challenging forage production acreage. In future years, rodent numbers will encounter a decline due to population self-regulation, but the damage for this year is done.

As if the production acreage in the Willamette Valley had not been through enough this growing season, the weather has shown it no favors thus far.  Extreme wet conditions late last year and early into this year proved to create difficult management conditions for seed growers. The extremes tilted rapidly as this year played out, resulting in extreme drought conditions for much of the forage seed production regions with 47% less precipitation that historical averages. On a typical year, 3” of rain can be expected in both April and May, but the Valley did not see drought relief until mid-June. This was unfortunately too little, too late for a great deal of the producers. Additionally, record high temps, well into the triple digits, took their toll on yield due to early dry down and seed head shattering, leaving a great deal of seed in the field. In all, tall fescue harvest is reduced 40%-50% this year.

The Valley and its growers will keep pushing through and continue to produce the seeded products that we all value across the country and internationally. They will continue doing whatever they can to ensure that high quality seed lands on your operation. If you plan to seed a novel endophyte tall fescue, or any other cool season perennial grass, it is best to reserve your seed early. The arrival time of seed across the country will be in keeping with years past but it will be limited in quantity. Due to quantity limitations among all other input costs being up, the cost of seed might be higher than that of previous years. ~ Drew Denman, from Novel Notes.

Carl Soren Hoveland, Oct. 25, 1927—July 4, 2021

Internationally respected grassland scientist Dr. Carl Soren Hoveland died in Athens on July 4, 2021.  He was born October 25, 1927 on a dairy farm near Sand Creek in northwestern Wisconsin. All four grandparents came from southern Norway as children.  Carl grew up with Norwegian as his first language.  In winter he skied two miles to a one-room country school.  Family frugality and hard work on the dairy farm taught him valuable lessons as they survived the Great Depression.  After high school, he entered the University of Wisconsin, working three jobs to support himself.  He served in the Marine Corps and then complete his BS and MS degrees in soils.  He obtained a PhD in agronomy-ecology and animal nutrition at the University of Florida in 1959.  After spending 22 productive years in research and teaching at Auburn University, he joined the Agronomy faculty at the University of Georgia, serving 26 years and becoming Terrel Distinguished Professor, and retiring in 2006.


During his productive research-teaching career he received many awards, among them were Fellows of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society, American Society for the Advancement of Science, and the Silver Medallion Award of the American Forage and Grassland Council.  His exciting career included a great deal of international travel for consulting, lectures, and teaching in many countries around the world in both hemispheres.  One of his proudest achievements was co-authoring, with Don Ball and Garry Lacefield, ‘Southern Forages’. The book has been translated into Spanish and Chinese and is used as a textbook at 60 universities and colleges.

Dr. Hoveland trained many grassland scientist in his career including UK Forage Specialist Ray Smith. His legacy will continue for many generations through his mentorship of 100’s and the students that each of them will teach.

Managing Nutrient Flows in Forage Systems

One of the most beautiful things about well managed grazing systems is the establishment of strong and vigorous nutrient cycles.  Nutrients enter this cycle in the form of fertilizer, manure, hay, supplemental feeds, minerals, and nitrogen that is fixed from the air via the symbiosis between rhizobium bacteria and legumes (Figure 1).  Somewhere in the range of 80 to 90% of these nutrients are recycled in well managed grazing systems. This recycling occurs through the breakdown of plant residue on the soil surface and below ground roots that have died, and dung and urine that have been deposited by grazing livestock.  There are many macro and micro flora and fauna involved in this process including earthworms, insects, fungi, bacteria, and protozoa. 

Figure 1.  Nutrients enter grazing systems via feed and fertilizer and are recycled by grazing and deposition of dung and fertilizer and decomposition of plant residue and senesced roots. 

Grazing Redistributes Nutrients

In large continuously stocked pastures, animals will consume nutrients in form of forage and concentrate them around shade and water sources in the form of dung and urine.  One way to improve nutrient distribution in pastures is to subdivide and implement rotational grazing. 

Hay Removes Large Quantities of Nutrients

Every ton of hay produced removes approximately 40 lb N, 15 lb P2O5, and 50 lb K2O.  In a good year, approximately 120 lb N, 45 lb P2O5, and 150 lb K2O could be removed from each acre of hay ground. 

Moving Nutrients within Grazing Systems Using Hay

Hay feeding can be used to redistribute nutrients within a forage system.  Hay can be produced on paddocks or in fields that contain high levels of nutrients and then fed in areas that are low in fertility. 

Take Home Points

Although managing nutrient flows in forage systems can sometimes seem like a daunting task, remembering a few key concepts can help you develop a long-term strategy for nutrient flows in your grazing system.

· Rotational stocking improves nutrient distribution in pastures.

· Hay contains large quantities of nutrients. 

· Buying and feeding hay can be used to bring nutrients into grazing systems.

· Hay can be used to move nutrients within forage systems from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. 

· Spreading out hay feeding points improves nutrient distribution and increases the value of those nutrients. 

· Always feed hay on your poorest pastures.  

Read the full articles, including tables and graphics, in Cow Country News.

~ Chris Teutsch, for Cow Country News

Regional Grazing Event in Mt. Vernon, IL, August 2021

Make plans today to attend the 2021 Heart of America Grazing Conference. Join us Tuesday, August 10th for an informative pasture walk with dinner to follow on site. Then on Wednesday, August 11th we have a full day conference at the Mt. Vernon, Double Tree Hotel. Big names, popular speakers, and hot topics will be plentiful at the annual event that gathers livestock graziers from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, and Kentucky. “Don’t miss your chance to hear from—and learn from—people who know how to make it work.” Greg Judy, our featured speaker, will be discussing his current grazing operation and management along with his numerous years of experience. Register here.

Summer Annual Forage Pasture Walk

University of Kentucky forage specialists will showcase their research and discuss considerations for livestock producers wishing to incorporate summer annuals in their operations during a free Summer Annual Forage Field Walk. The walk will take place July 15 at the UK Research and Education Center in Princeton.  

Gene and Brittany harvesting summer annual forage variety trials before a rainstorm. Teutsch

Summer annual forages include sorghum, sudangrass, sorghum-sudangrass hybrids, crabgrass, teff and millets. They grow best when temperatures are between 80 and 90 degrees F. They can provide producers with high quality grazing when cool-season forages struggle in the heat and can help producers who are renovating pastures control erosion and weeds until they can seed cool-season perennials in the fall. 

Participants will tour research plots and variety trials and see hands-on demonstrations. Topics include fertility, establishment, grazing management, pest control, economics, species and testing for nitrates and prussic acid. 

“We encourage producers to come with their questions,” said Chris Teutsch, extension forage specialist in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “We hope to frame our discussion around topics that interest our audience.” 

The event begins with registration and dinner at 4:30 p.m. CDT. Field walks will start shortly after 5 p.m. and last until 8 p.m.  

While the event is free, organizers encourage interested individuals to register online to help with meal planning.   

Event sponsors include the UK Grain and Forage Center of Excellence, Kentucky Master Grazer Educational Program and the UK Cooperative Extension Service.  

Pub of the Month: Weed Management in Grass Pastures, Hayfields and Other Farmstead Sites (AGR-172) ***UPDATED***

Weeds can reduce the quantity and the stand life of desirable forage plants in pastures and hayfields. These unwanted plants are often more aggressive than existing or desired forage species and compete for light, water, and nutrients. Weeds can also diminish the quality and palatability of the forage available for livestock grazing, and certain weed species are potentially poisonous to grazing animals. The aesthetic value of a pasture is also impacted by weeds.     

Therefore, it may be desirable to initiate weed management strategies that reduce the impact of weeds on forage production. However, not all weedy plants are detrimental to pastures or hayfields. In fact, some weedy plants provide nutritional value to grazing animals; thus, prudent management decisions are often required to determine when or if weed control should be initiated in a pasture or hayfield. Download this publication by clicking on the weed tab of the website https://forages.ca.uky.edu.

CRP Grasslands Signup

CRP Grasslands helps landowners and operators protect grassland, including rangeland, and pastureland and certain other lands, while maintaining the areas as grazing lands. Protecting grasslands contributes positively to the economy of many regions, provides biodiversity of plant and animal populations, and improves environmental quality. FSA has updated the Grasslands Signup to establish a minimum rental rate of $15 per acre, as well as new National Grassland Priority Zones.

To enroll in the CRP General signup, producers and landowners should contact their local USDA Service Center by the July 23 deadline. To enroll in the CRP Grasslands signup, they should contact USDA by the August 20 deadline.

Research Highlight from USDA-ARS Lexington

      Soil salinity is a major problem negatively affecting crop growth in many areas of the world, and selecting for traits in plant varieties that tolerate salt stress is a major research goal. Previous work has demonstrated that the presence of the tall fescue endophyte, Epichloë coenophiala, contributes to the ability of tall fescue to better withstand heat and water stress. Research was undertaken to characterize the contribution of the tall fescue endophyte in regards to salt stress tolerance. The results indicated that endophyte promoted salinity tolerance in tall fescue by maintaining higher growth and photosynthetic efficiency and lowering Na+ accumulation and lipid peroxidation. This work confirms that the presence of the endophyte can aid in growth of tall fescue under salt stress, thereby demonstrating an additional benefit for the presence of endophyte in persistence of tall fescue under different stress environments. Read the full peer reviewed article here: ~ Pan, L., Cui, S., Dinkins, R.D., Jiang, Y.

There’s toxic and then there’s toxic

I don’t know about you, but when I consult a list of all of the Kentucky pasture plants that are potentially toxic, it amazes me that livestock ever survive. Buttercup is one of those weeds. Buttercup contains the toxin ranunculin which is a blistering agent. Ingested in large quantities, it can be fatal. We can find four species of buttercup in Kentucky, but species differ in their toxicity.      I can almost hear you say ‘What? Buttercup is toxic? But it is everywhere!’ It does seem to be everywhere, especially in fields that have been grazed closely during the fall and winter. This low growing pasture weed is very visible right now due to its bright yellow flowers.

The emergence of the showy yellow flowers of buttercup is a sure sign of spring in Kentucky. Buttercup can be toxic to livestock when grazed, but is detoxified in hay or silage. Henning

Livestock will avoid buttercup in pasture, even when it seems to dominate the stand. Buttercup is not a problem in hay because the ranunculin is detoxified by the curing process. This spring, we received questions from multiple sources about the toxicity of buttercup in small grain silage in round bales. At first, this seemed to be one of those questions for which there was no good answer.

Logically, it would seem that if ranunculin was detoxified by the curing process, the wilting required before making baleage (round bale silage) would also detoxify the buttercup. There are no documented cases of buttercup poisoning at the UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, indirect evidence that buttercup toxicity is not a problem in our stored forage. However, neither provide the firm evidence that we needed to say that buttercup was not a problem in silage.

Dr. Ray Smith, my fellow UK forage extension specialist in Lexington made the contact with researchers in Switzerland, who remembered an old paper on buttercup detoxification in silage. The 1992 research paper (written in German) found that ranuncilin levels were reduced by 90% in silage compared to fresh forage. The most toxic species of buttercup in this study was not one commonly found in Kentucky.

Although it is good to know that buttercup is not toxic in silage, it is still not a desirable plant in pastures or hayfields. Buttercup emerges from seed in the fall or late winter and can be controlled by numerous broadleaf herbicides. Control is more effective in February through April when buttercup is small but before the yellow flowers emerge. For more information on weed control in grass pastures please see Weed Management in Grass Pastures, Hayfields, and Other Farmstead Sites (http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/agr/agr172/agr172.pdf) or Broadleaf Weeds of Kentucky Pastures (http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/agr/agr207/agr207.pdf).

So buttercup is still potentially toxic and a problematic weed in pastures and hayfields. But at least we now have solid evidence that it is detoxified in both hay and silage.

Happy foraging. ~ Dr. Jimmy Henning for Farmer’s Pride