Cover Crop Considerations After Wheat

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension AgNR Educator, Crawford County (originally published in The Ohio Farmer)

Wheat provides many additional opportunities for your operation. These options include drainage improvements, weed-control timing, double-crop soybeans, double-crop forages, compaction mitigation, and soil building through cover crops. From the time wheat is harvested, there is about nine months for weeds to grow and soil to erode. If double-crop soybeans are not planted, the use of cover crops will protect the soil and assist with weed control. High populations of cover crops provide competition and soil cover to control weeds.

While wheat residue does a decent job of controlling erosion, cover crops can provide increased erosion control. The canopy protects soil from the impact of raindrops, and the roots hold it in place, leading to decreased surface erosion and retention of valuable nutrients. The cover crop acts as a trap to hold nutrients from soil and applications of manure or commercial fertilizer. They do an excellent job of absorbing nitrogen and holding it in plant residue.

The type of crop you choose will determine what benefits you receive. If an operation uses tillage, annual cover crops can still have a benefit for the operation. The best time to till is the following spring, just before planting. The cover crop opens soil and allows it to dry out better in the spring for tillage or no-till planting.

One of the greatest economic benefits of cover crops can be found by using them as a forage. Growers receive the Continue reading

On-farm bale grazing demonstration in Kentucky

In this 4 minute video, Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist at the University of Kentucky, shares information and video on bale grazing during a recent follow-up with a producer participating for a second year in the demonstration.

Poison Hemlock is Blooming

Christine Gelley, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, Noble County, OSU Extension

Control with a broadleaf killer like 2,4-D doesn’t eliminate ALL the competition for next generation hemlock plants.

Poison hemlock is up and actively growing right this minute. It is already prevalent on roadsides in Noble County. If you stand next to poison hemlock it will feel like you are in that scene from “Alice in Wonderland” where the flowers are giant, and she is tiny. It looks like Queen Anne’s Lace, but much larger. It blooms earlier and it is has distinct purple spots on the stem.

All parts of the poison hemlock plant are poisonous to people and livestock, wet or dry. This can be an extremely concerning weed in hay fields. You won’t have to look hard to find it. If you come across it in bloom, you can mow it down to prevent seed production, but it will come back to haunt you later. A similar look alike is wild parsnip, which is in the same family, causes additional concerns for skin rash, and has yellow flowers. We have yet to see giant hogweed in Noble County, but it is another look alike that can be found in other parts of Ohio with similar concerns.

Control on poison hemlock is most effective when the plants are Continue reading

Hay yields off? Don’t panic, there’s time to take action!

Chris Penrose, Extension Educator, Ag and Natural Resources, Morgan County

Some suggest hay yields are half of normal. Is that the result of late freezes, or more timely harvest this year?

I hope you are not having the hay season I am having. While the quality of my hay is good, my yields are extremely disappointing. With over half of my fields made, I am around 50% of a normal crop. The two late freezes killed back growing grass last month, and honestly, I am mowing hay earlier than most years. I am also doing it much faster with my youngest son not working this summer at the Wilmington College farm due to the virus and helping on the farm. Another thing I have noticed over the past few years is that some hay fields have less fescue and orchard grass, and more poor quality forages like cheat grass reducing quality and yields.

If it looks like hay is going to be short this year, here are a few thoughts for the short term and for the long term. First, is there hay you can make from some property not too far from where you live? Sometimes owners may let fields be made at a reasonable price if they are faced with having to pay someone to mow it for them just to maintain open space.

Will your fields benefit from fertilizer and lime? Applications made soon can provide a Continue reading

Determine Forage Moisture Content

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Moisture content at harvest is significant factor in forage quality.

Forage maturity/stage of development is often cited as the number one factor that determines forage quality, but for any stored forage, moisture content at harvest is a close second. Moisture content drives what happens to that forage after it is removed from the field, whether quality is maintained or degraded. Improper moisture content can reduce storage life.

The most common method of determining forage moisture is some type of visual appraisal whereby a forage sample is either twisted together or squeezed into a ball and then released.  How quickly that twisted sample unravels, or the ball falls apart determines if the forage is too wet, too dry, or ready for harvest.  While a lot of good quality stored forage has been made using this method, errors sometimes get made and forage quality is compromised, or forage is lost.  For those producers looking for more certainty in determining forage moisture there are some tools available that can help.

Tools available to determine forage moisture include a microwave oven, commercial forage moisture testers, hand-constructed vortex dryers, air fryers, moisture probes, and moisture sensors built into harvest equipment.  Each has some advantages and disadvantages, but each used with the proper knowledge and protocol can help the forage producer more accurately determine forage moisture.  Most of these tools requires that a good representative sample be collected to produce a reliable result.  When sampling windrows be sure to . . .

Continue reading Determine Forage Moisture Content

Precision Technology Systems in Alfalfa

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Crawford County, AgNR Educator (previously published in Progressive Forage on-line)

I was recently talking to one of my local farmers who uses precision agriculture to manage his corn and soybean crops. His combine, sprayer and planter are all connected to the cloud, and he uses the data from the last 10 years to manage next year’s crop.

We were discussing ways to use the data he collects to better manage the farm. As we looked at his data, some fields had four years of yield history missing due to his hay business. He commented that it is strange how we are still managing hay fields on a field scale, but the rest of his crops are zone managed; yet alfalfa is often his most profitable crop. How do we improve hay production zones without yield and quality data? There are tools available to better manage forage production.

There has been a surprising amount of work done recently in this area, including remote sensing for yield, quality and stand evaluation; developing yield monitors and soil mapping. Last year started out very disappointing for alfalfa growers in my area, with large areas winter-killed. As we started to assess stand damage, walking every field and accurately documenting damage was not Continue reading

Potential for Toxic Nitrate Levels in Forages

Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist

Plants readily take up nitrates from the soil, even under colder conditions

The recent cold and cloudy weather has raised the concern for higher nitrate levels in forages that could potentially be toxic to animals consuming those forages. It is true that any stress condition that slows plant growth and metabolism can increase the risk of higher plant nitrate levels. This article discusses factors to consider, especially given the recent cold weather we have been experiencing in Ohio and surrounding regions.

Plants readily take up nitrates from the soil, even under colder conditions, and especially since we have plentiful soil moisture to facilitate uptake. Once in the plant, nitrate is converted to nitrite, then ammonia, and finally into amino acids and plant protein. Any environmental stress that significantly slows down plant photosynthesis and metabolism can lead to excessive nitrate levels in the plant because the nitrate uptake from the soil will be faster than its metabolism into plant protein. Such stresses include frost, extended cold weather, cloudy conditions, hail damage, or . . .

Continue reading Potential for Toxic Nitrate Levels in Forages

Making Baleage as a Stored Forage Production Option

On March 26, 2020, Ohio State University Extension Ag and Natural Resources Educator Lee Beers hosted a webinar presentation focused on Making Baleage as a Stored Forage Production Option. Considering the spring weather challenges experienced over the past couple of years, Ohio’s forage producers are frequently looking for options that allow a more timely harvest of high quality forages, especially when it comes to first cutting.

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Ag and Natural Resources Educator in Wayne County, was the featured presenter during the webinar. In the video below, Lewandowski details the advantages of baleage and offers advice in regard to properly making, storing and managing baleage.