Cornell Field Crops News

Timely Field Crops information for the New York Agricultural Community

May 24, 2019
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Sclerotinia Crown and Stem Rot on Alfalfa (AKA: White Mold)

Sclerotinia Crown and Stem Rot on Alfalfa (AKA: White Mold)

By Jaime Cummings of NYS Integrated Pest Management, and Janice Degni of Cornell Cooperative Extension

We had an interesting report from Janice Degni (CCE, SCNY dairy and field crops team leader) this week.  While out scouting and measuring alfalfa stands in Onondaga County, Janice noticed some wilting plants.  Upon closer inspection, she found sclerotia, the tell-tale sign of white mold on the alfalfa stems (Fig. 1).  Though this disease can be found in alfalfa and clover stands, you are likely more familiar with white mold on soybeans.  Two different species of this pathogen can be found on alfalfa.  Sclerotinia trifolium is the one most commonly identified on alfalfa, but the same species found on soybean, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, can also infect alfalfa.

Figure 1.  Bleached stems with sclerotia on alfalfa.

Figure 1. Bleached stems with sclerotia on alfalfa. (Photo by Janice Degni, CCE)

Remember that these pathogens overwinter and survive many years in the soil as sclerotia.  Sclerotia are the black structures you’ve likely seen on infected soybean stems.  These two different fungal pathogen species are difficult to differentiate, but the trend is that S. sclerotiorum tends to infect in the spring and summer, while S. trifolium typically infects in the fall.  Regardless of the species, the symptoms, epidemiology and management are similar.

Figure 2.  Sclerotinia stem and crown rot infection symptoms on alfalfa.

Figure 2. Sclerotinia stem and crown rot infection symptoms on alfalfa. (Photos by Carol Frate, University of California)

The symptoms of Sclerotinia crown and stem rot in alfalfa include rotting crowns, cottony growth on stems and crowns, and wilting and rotting stems.  Infected crowns tend to die-off, and may be confused with winterkill, if not for the tell-tale sign of sclerotia in the dead tissues.  Infection in first-year stands is most problematic.  Just like in soybeans, this disease can spread quickly through a field, either by spores or via fungal mycelium spreading among plants during a cool, wet spring.  This can potentially thin a stand out rather quickly, and can leave plenty of those sclerotia behind as inoculum for future years.

This prolonged cool, wet spring we’ve been experiencing has provided ideal conditions for this disease that we infrequently encounter in our alfalfa fields.  An integrated management approach is the best solution.  Since this disease is most prominent in first year, fall-seeded fields, you may consider future spring plantings in fields where you find it.  Or, get your fall seedings in as early as possible so that seedlings have a chance to establish before the sclerotia germinate and produce spores in the fall.  Tillage buries the sclerotia, which can reduce the number of spores released and may decrease infection in the field.  But, as in soybeans, this disease is difficult to manage.  Dense stands and weedy fields create perfect conditions for this pathogen to thrive.  However, a few alfalfa varieties exist with moderate resistance, and may be considered in fields with a history of this disease.  Research in other states has shown that some fungicides are efficacious against this disease when applied in the fall (Table 1).  We have limited options for fungicides labeled for white mold on alfalfa in NY, including Pristine and Endura.  However, fungicide applications for this disease may not be cost-effective (always follow label instructions, restrictions, and pay attention to post-harvest intervals).  Herbicides, such as Paraquat, have also been used to reduce weeds and open up the canopy to increase air-flow lessen disease development.

Fungicide efficacy trial results against white mold and stem rot in alfalfa.

Once the weather warms up and fields dry out, this disease will likely halt, and some infected stands may recover and produce sufficient yields in subsequent years.  But, keep in mind that those sclerotia will remain in the soil for many years waiting for perfect conditions to start the disease cycle again.

Interested in keeping up to date with pest and disease issues identified statewide by CCE and IPM staff?  Subscribe to the NYS IPM Weekly Pest Report.

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May 24, 2019
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Wet Spring Can Impact Forage Quality for Entire Year

Wet Spring Can Impact Forage Quality for Entire Year

Fay Benson – SCNY Cornell Regional Dairy Team

Once again we find ourselves watching the calendar days flipping by and continued wet weather keeping farmers from working in the field. If the wet weather continues to keep farmers from planting their corn and soybeans, it prevents them from a timely harvest of first cutting hay crops. This not only reduces the quality but sets the stage for the rest of the hay harvest though out the summer. For those farmers that purchased crop insurance on their corn or soybeans they can sleep a little easier at night. This is because they have options to leave fallow those fields that are too wet to plant or are drowned after they are planted by using the “Prevented Planting” or “Replant” options of their crop insurance policy.

A number of farmers I have interviewed claim their sole reason for buying crop insurance is for the prevented planting option which is available on corn and soybean policies. Prevented planting decisions should be made as you approach the final planting date for the crop. In New York, June 10th is the Final Planting Date for soybeans, and for silage and grain corn.

Replant payments

To receive Replant payments, you must have a loss of the lesser of 20 acres or 20% of the insured planted acres to qualify for a replant payment. Be sure to contact your crop insurance agent once you decide replant is needed. Do not destroy any evidence of the initial planting before reporting the loss to your sales agent.

Prevented Planting

Can be claimed as any insurable cause of loss that keeps you out of the fields prior to 6/10/2019, providing the cause is general in the area, and other requirements are met. If a farmer applies for prevented planting they will receive 55% of the crops guarantee for corn and 60% of the crop’s guarantee for soybeans. When signing up for crop insurance farmers have the option to increase their prevented planning coverage by 5% of their guarantee by paying a premium.

One added decision farmers will need to make this year is the possibilities of “Market Facilitation Program” payments being made by the government. If Prevented Planting is used those acres will have no bushels to apply for such payments.

If your planting is delayed or prevented due to an insurable cause, be sure to notify your crop insurance agent in writing within 72 hours of the final planting date for the affected crop.  Additionally, if you participate in Farm Service Agency (FSA) programs, it is important to report your prevented planting acreage within 15 calendar days after the final planting date for the crop in order to receive prevented planting acreage credit.

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May 23, 2019
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Weather Outlook – May 23, 2019

Weather Outlook – May 23, 2019

NOAA Northeast Regional Climate Center, Cornell University

Last week temperatures ranged within 2 degrees of normal for most areas; 2-4 degrees above normal in the Hudson Valley. Precipitation has ranged from a trace to over 2”. Base 50 growing degree-days ranged from 10 to 90.

GDD 48 - March 1 - May 22 GDD 48 - May 1 - May 22 GDD 50 - March 1 - May 22 GDD 50 - May 1 - May 22

Slight risk for severe storms today with the main threats being damaging winds and large hail. Seasonable to above-normal temperatures this week, but with unsettled weather for most days. Memorial Day should be dry.

Today thunderstorms are likely with the potential for severe storms with damaging winds and large hail, especially during the afternoon and evening. Temperatures will be in the mid 60s to 70s with muggy conditions. Overnight lows will be in the 50s, some 40s, with a chance of showers overnight into Friday.

Friday will become mostly sunny with cooler temperatures in the 60s to low 70s. Spotty showers are possible and windy conditions are expected. Overnight temperatures will be in the 40s to low 50s.

Saturday temperatures will be in the mid 60s to 70s with higher humidity and the potential for showers and thunderstorms. Overnight temperatures will be in the 50s to near 60, a few showers are possible.

Sunday highs will be in the mid 60s to near 80 with scattered showers possible. Overnight temperatures will be in the upper 40s to upper 50s.

Monday temperatures will be in the mid 60s to upper 70s with mostly dry conditions. Overnight temperatures will be in the upper 40s to 50s with showers possible overnight.

Tuesday highs will be in the 60s to lower 70s with showers possible. Overnight temperatures will be in the 50s.

Wednesday highs will be in the mid 60s to upper 70s with showers possible. Overnight temperatures will be in the 50s.

The seven-day precipitation amounts will range from ½” to over 2 ½” .

The 8-14 day outlook (May 30 – June 5) favors below-normal temperatures for a majority of the state. Above-normal precipitation is favored for the state.

Maps of 8-14 day outlooks:

National Weather Service watch/warnings map:

US Drought Monitor

Drought Impact Reporter:

CLIMOD2 (NRCC data interface):

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May 23, 2019
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Ideas for Dairies Dealing with Weather Challenges

Ideas for Dairies Dealing with Weather Challenges

From David R Balbian, M.S., P.A.S. – Area Dairy Management Specialist – Cornell Cooperative Extension – Central New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops

This extremely wet Spring has caused delays in the harvest of haycrop in our region. Most people have not harvested any haycrop, yet the crop has continued to mature with most grass fields in our 1st cut monitoring program exceeding 55% NDF, some even exceeding 60% NDF! There is little milk to be made with this forage. Additional grain will only help a little. This feed will put a lid on your herd’s ability to be productive. So, what to do? Here are some ideas to consider. They do not fit for everyone, as every dairy has their own unique set of circumstances to deal with. I simply put them out there for you to take into consideration to help maintain some economic viability with your operation.

  1. Skip over your grass fields (and maybe mixed stands). Harvest your alfalfa and perhaps your mixed stands. Separate this poorer haycrop when storing and utilize it for dry cows and perhaps older growing heifers. Be sure to rebalance diets.
  2. Utilize the 1st Cut Monitoring Update information that Kevin Ganoe sent to you yesterday. Find the fields that most closely match your geographic location to see where you stand. This info will help you to make these decisions.
  3. If you have a market for later cut dry hay and you can make dry hay & you can sell it, that is an option to consider to get some value out of this feed.
  4. Some of this late cut grass could perhaps be utilized as bedding.
  5. If you have a good inventory of Corn Silage and you must feed some of this poorer haycrop to the lactating cows, consider moving to a heavier C.S. diet. This will reduce the negative effects of this poorer haycrop on milk production.
  6. If you traditionally grow some corn for grain, consider diverting more of it to silage to allow you to reduce the amount of poor haycrop you may have to feed. Then feed more corn silage.
  7. If you have to feed some of this poor haycrop you may want to consider adding some digestible fiber sources to the diet such as soy hulls, brewers grain, citrus pulp, etc. This will add some cost. To get the milk response benefit you’ll need to replace some forage (the poorer haycrop forage) with these ingredients.
  8. Be sure to feed your grassy fields (when harvested) with Nitrogen to increase yields on subsequent cuttings and to increase its protein content. If this rainy weather continues, grasses will respond well to the additional Nitrogen. Connect with Kevin Ganoe for some specific advise on this. Store this separate from poorer quality feed and allocate it to you lactating cows.
  9. Work with your nutritionist to develop a plan that is specific for your operation  based on your situation and circumstances.
  10. Definitely harvest the high quality haycrop that you may have still out in the field FIRST, then plant your corn.

I am sure there are some other ideas that people may have to minimize the negative effects this late harvested haycrop can have on your milking herd. I simply put these out there for you to consider. I know they do not work for everyone, but perhaps a few or even one idea could be greatly beneficial. Remember, productivity is a primary factor linked to economic viability on the vast majority of dairy farms.

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May 20, 2019
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on NYS IPM Weekly Field Crops Pest Report – May 20, 2019

NYS IPM Weekly Field Crops Pest Report – May 20, 2019

May 17, 2019
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Weather Outlook – May 16, 2019

Weather Outlook – May 16, 2019

NOAA Northeast Regional Climate Center, Cornell University

Last week temperatures ranged from 2 to 8 degrees below normal. Precipitation has ranged from 1” to over 4”. Base 50 growing degree-days were less than 30.

GDD Base 48 Mar 1 - May 15 GDD Base 48 May 1 - May 15 GDD Base 50 Mar1 - May 15GDD Base 50 May 1 - May 15

Rain possible Thursday night into Friday, and some unsettled weather next week, but overall a much drier week with temperatures near-normal.

Friday will be in the 60s with showers, ending in the afternoon. Overnight temperatures will be in the 40s.

Saturday temperatures will be in the 60s and low 70s with dry conditions. Overnight temperatures will be in the 40s, a few showers are possible.

Sunday highs will be in the 60s to 70s with mostly dry conditions. Overnight temperatures will be in the 40s with showers overnight into Monday.

Monday temperatures will be in the 60s to 70s. Overnight temperatures will be in the 40s with showers possible overnight into Tuesday.

Tuesday highs will be in the 60s to low 70s with scattered showers possible. Overnight temperatures will be in the 40s.

Wednesday highs will be in the 60s to low 70s with scattered showers possible. Overnight temperatures will be in the 50s.

The seven-day precipitation amounts will range from ¼” to near 1 ½”.

The 8-14 day outlook (May 23-29) favors above-normal temperatures for all of NY, slightly favors above-normal precipitation for western NY and slightly favors below-normal precipitation for southeast NY.

Maps of 8-14 day outlooks:

National Weather Service watch/warnings map:

US Drought Monitor

Drought Impact Reporter:

CLIMOD2 (NRCC data interface):

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May 15, 2019
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Waterhemp Herbicide Resistance Tests: Preliminary results

Waterhemp Herbicide Resistance Tests: Preliminary results

Bryan Brown, New York State Integrated Pest Management
Collaborators: Antonio DiTommaso, Kathleen Howard, Mike Hunter, Jeff Miller, Scott Morris, Jodi Putman, Peter Sikkema, Mike Stanyard

Waterhemp seedlings in greenhouse

Bryan Brown is coordinating a project testing waterhemp for resistance to herbicides.

Last summer, several populations of waterhemp (Amaranthus tuberculatus) survived herbicide applications in western NY corn and soybeans.

Growers asked if these weeds are actually resistant to certain herbicides. If so, which ones? And are all populations of western NY waterhemp resistant to the same herbicides, or do they differ?

To answer these questions, we collected seed from these surviving weeds at three locations in NY, grew them in a Cornell University greenhouse alongside a population of waterhemp that we know is susceptible to herbicides, and then used a spray chamber to apply a range of herbicides and rates.

The herbicides we used were glyphosate (i.e. Roundup, WSSA Group 9), atrazine (i.e. Aatrex, WSSA Group 5), lactofen (i.e. Cobra, WSSA Group 14), and imazethapyr (i.e. Pursuit, WSSA Group 2). The WSSA groups represented here are the ones waterhemp has developed the most resistance to in other states. For each herbicide, we used five different rates. Each rate was applied to five waterhemp plants from each population. Following the methods of other studies, plants were sprayed when they were around 5” tall. BASF Agricultural Solutions and Valent USA LLC supplied some of the materials for this study.

We’ll be doing a final analysis three weeks after spraying. But here’s how the NY populations look after only one week. At the full labelled rates, glyphosate resulted in 50% control and lactofen resulted in 99% control. Atrazine and imazethapyr resulted in poor control, but waterhemp plants were larger than the maximum size stated on the label.

But it’s the comparison of our three NY populations to the susceptible population that determines resistance. Final control ratings will be done in two weeks, but initial results indicate that two NY populations are potentially resistant to glyphosate, three are potentially resistant to atrazine, none are likely resistant to lactofen, and two are potentially resistant to imazethapyr. So herbicides in WSSA Groups 2, 9, and 5 shouldn’t be solely relied upon to control this weed.

Since there were some differences between NY populations, we’ve shared each farm’s results with the participating growers so they can make the necessary changes to their management plans.

So if you haven’t seen it already, keep an eye out for waterhemp this year. It looks similar to other NY pigweeds, except that it’s completely hairless and it has separate male (pollen-producing) and female (seed-producing) flowering heads. (A video comparison may be found from American Agriculturalist.) Since it can travel in seed, feed, and equipment ­– make sure they’re clean. And think about trying out some new weed control options.

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May 15, 2019
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on NNY Research Helps Farmers Select Corn for Local Conditions

NNY Research Helps Farmers Select Corn for Local Conditions

People checking corn crop

Checking a past corn crop at Reedhaven Farm in Northern New York. Photo: NNYADP

The latest data from field research trials evaluating the opportunity to grow high-quality, high-yield corn under localized growing conditions are posted on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at

About 65 percent of the approximately 144,000 acres of corn grown each year across the six northernmost counties of New York State is harvested as silage with 35 percent harvested as grain, largely to feed the dairy industry. Ethanol production also contributes to the demand for the regionally-grown corn.

“The importance of corn silage as a high yielding, high quality feed for dairy cattle continues to increase as farmers look to optimize feed value from their available acreage,” said project co-leader Thomas R. Overton, a professor of Animal Science  and director of the Cornell University CALS PRO-DAIRY Program, Ithaca, N.Y.

The 2018 trials’ data analysis includes standard measures of performance, including yield, moisture level, and standability as well as innovative techniques for forage quality evaluation for digestibility and milk production. The forage quality data for the 2018 report were collected and analyzed by the field and laboratory research team that included Cornell University faculty, field technicians, and Extension staff working in cooperation with three farm sites in Northern New York.

“As the seed industry introduces new corn hybrids to the market, field evaluation under regional growing conditions is critical to assist growers in selecting the hybrids best-suited to their farm,” noted project co-leader Joseph Lawrence, Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY Extension Associate, Lowville, N.Y.

The researchers emphasize the need for growers to make hybrid selections based on how the hybrids have performed over multiple years, multiple locations and soils, and under varying weather conditions, and based on the mix of corn traits that best fit their individual farm business needs.

“Corn grain is a valuable commodity in its own right and a major contributor to any hybrid’s silage quality and yield. Grain evaluation trials are typically the first step in determining a hybrid’s value to a regional market,” said project co-leader Margaret E. Smith, professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Corn hybrid testing results for 2018 and recent past years are posted on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Legislature and administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.  Participating seed companies submitted hybrids for evaluation, helping to defray a portion of the cost of the hybrid evaluations.

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May 15, 2019
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Alfalfa Weevil is Slowly Appearing

Alfalfa Weevil is Slowly Appearing

Jaime Cummings and Ken Wise, NYS Integrated Pest Management Program

Alfalfa field

Alfalfa field near Aurora in Cayuga County, May 8. (Photo by J. Cummings, NYS IPM)

Despite this cold, wet spring, which has delayed planting and other farming efforts across NY, our pests and diseases continue to rear their ugly heads.  While the cold had been slowing down some of our insect pests, the alfalfa weevil has been detected in some fields, though currently at low numbers.  This serves as a reminder that we need to continue to be vigilant with our scouting efforts for early detection of pests to make sound management decisions.

Alfalfa weevil

Figure 1. Various instars (growth stages) of the alfalfa weevil larvae, and an adult weevil (Photos by Ken Wise, NYS IPM)

Keep in mind that the alfalfa weevil overwinters in NY and is typically more of a problem in established stands where they emerge in the spring and lay eggs in alfalfa stems.  The larvae cause the most of the damage as they go through four instar growth stages; and the fourth instar causes the most damage (Fig. 1).  Feeding damage from this pest initially looks like small shot-holes in the leaves in the upper canopy, but can quickly progress toward defoliation under high pest pressure (Fig. 2).  During a cold spring, like we are currently experiencing, the alfalfa usually develops faster than the weevils, and we’ll see a delay in weevil emergence and feeding damage.  This year, we are a couple weeks behind when we usually start seeing noticeable damage, and you want to get out scouting now for the weevils and continue to do so weekly through first harvest and early regrowth.

Alfalfa weevil leaf symptoms

Figure 2. Small ‘shot holes’ in leaves are early signs of the pest, which may progress and eventually result in defoliation. (Photos by Ken Wise, NYS IPM)

Scouting for the alfalfa weevil involves walking a random pattern in the field and stopping to collect a stem every 10 steps.  Once you have 10 stems, visually inspect the stems for weevil tip-feeding injury, and count each stem showing tip-feeding injury within the top three inches to determine a percentage of damaged stems.  Repeat this collection of 10 random stems five more times throughout the field for a total of 50 stems inspected.  Repeat this scouting in different patterns within the field weekly.

Follow the established action thresholds based on harvest schedules.  Before first cutting, if 40% of the stems have damage, then management options should be considered.  If approaching threshold, early harvest is a good option.  Otherwise, if you’re unable to manage with an early harvest, and weather permitting, you may consider an insecticide application.  Always consult label instructions and follow Cornell Guidelines for pesticide applications.  Given our ‘late’ spring and late emergence of this pest, an early harvest this year will likely be sufficient for management in fields at high risk or at threshold.  After harvest, always check the regrowth regularly for signs of feeding.  If 50% of the regrowth shows damage and larvae are <3/8” long, then you may need to consider a follow-up insecticide application.  But, keep in mind all factors when considering an insecticide application, including cost, pre-harvest intervals, and weather constraints.  And remember, mixed stands with <50% alfalfa or poor stands of alfalfa should not be sprayed for this pest, because the return on investment is not likely in those situations.  Never spray alfalfa that is in bloom.  Not only is it illegal, but it endangers many pollinators and other beneficial insects.  Keep in mind that at least 13 species of natural biocontrol parasites of this pest exist in NY, and each pesticide application aimed at managing the weevil also kills off your beneficial insects and parasites.  The more beneficial parasites you have, the less likely you’ll have alfalfa weevil issues above threshold.

Alfalfa weevil larva in cocoon

Alfalfa weevil larva in a cocoon, which will emerge as an adult weevil. (Photo by Ken Wise, NYS IPM)

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May 9, 2019
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Resources for dealing with Spring Weather Delays

Resources for dealing with Spring Weather Delays

Cornell Cooperative Extension and PRO-DAIRY

The following article was written in 2011. With the wet weather much of New York State has been seeing this spring, we thought it would be helpful to re-visit the article again this year.




While the forecast still seems unsettled we are all hopeful that we are past the worst of the rain and can begin catch up on spring’s work.  Here we have attempted to summarize a variety of relevant topics as you consider how to best tackle all the work that needs to take place is a condensed time-frame.  As always contact your local Extension office for more information on any of these topics.

Safety First!

Harvest is a busy time for most farm operations. Time means money when it comes to yields, production schedules, and operating costs. However, time also ensures safety at harvest. The extra time it takes to perform a task properly can determine whether the job is completed at all. Harvest season comes with many stresses. Exposure to dangerous situations can increase the mental pressure, and your risk of injury. Follow safe practices around harvest equipment to make the most of your work time.  The most important goal this spring is to send all family members and employees home to their families SAFE … EVERYDAY!!

Planning and Team Work

With your condensed time window for key field activities this spring, the solution to accomplishing everything on time might come from a different way of thinking.  Consider the 5,000-foot view of the land that you and your neighbors work and think of the inventory of people and equipment potentially available to apply manure, fit fields, plant, harvest, haul, pack bunk, etc. for the collective land base.  Are there opportunities to share equipment and time even where you haven’t done so before?  Can you bring in equipment or a custom operator to take care of one activity while you focus on another? Does it make sense to use the 4-row planter when a 6-row is sitting idle a mile away?  Can you bring in extra help for milking?  Do you have any retired neighbors who could lend a hand with field work?

Consider gathering with your neighbors to strategize and to make sure that the most efficient equipment is fully utilized this year.  Remember: you and your neighbors are in the same boat, so you might as well paddle together!

Tillage and Impact on Wet Soil

While driving on and tilling wet soil may be somewhat unavoidable this spring, there is still an opportunity to reduce the amount of damage that is done.  Here is a summary of pointers from Tom Kilcer, Advanced Ag Systems, Kinderhook, NY:

  • Keep tillage shallow, in friable top soil not wet soil underneath.
  • Utilize vertical tillage, avoid equipment such as disks that simply smear and ruin the structure of wet soils.
  • Minimize weight whenever possible (fertilizer hoppers, etc.).
  • Make sure wheels on planter tractor are offset and not compacting the corn rows.
  • Check the seed furrow when planting: if planter is smearing sidewalls, it is too wet to plant.
  • Pay extra attention to seed placement and row cover by planter.

Park the Corn Planter when 1st Cutting is Ready!

The window of opportunity for high quality hay forage is 1-3 days. Window of opportunity to plant corn is April 25 to June 1 = 36 days.  The harvest opportunity for corn is corn silage or snaplage or HMSC or dry shell or ear corn.

First cut is 40% of yield in 3 cut system. Delaying cutting alfalfa past optimum first-crop harvest timing reduces the quality. Subsequent crops are then also delayed, making timely harvest of the last crop before fall more difficult. It is important to get that first cut off somehow. If forage inventory is good, consider alternative storage options to feed to heifers or just chop poor quality forage back onto the field. Do you really need all of it? Re-growth is critical for a 3 cut system.

To go from ideal alfalfa of 20% CP, 30% ADF, and 40% NDF, to 17 – 34 – 45, takes only 5 or 6 days! Obviously, poor quality forage does not have the same milk producing potential.

What nutrient changes can you expect in alfalfa due to advancing maturity?

  • Decreased intake – due to higher NDF, which increases about 0.9% per day.
  • Decreased digestibility and energy value – due to higher ADF, which increases about 0.7% per day and a larger amount of lignin, which is indigestible.
  • Decreased protein – decreases about 0.5% per day.

How much does it cost me to delay harvest? A lot! For each unit of NDF increase past 40% NDF for will:

  • Need: increased energy and protein supplements.
  • Have: lost production from the effect of lower NDF digestibility on dry matter intake.

Filling rates by total tractor weights chartTips for haylage harvest:

  • DO NOT ensile haylage wetter than 30% (target 32-40% DM). You all will be in a hurry to get haylage in the silos. Haylage wetter than 30% will have a greater chance of clostridia fermentation and butyric acid production.
  • Do NOT chop alfalfa WET!
  • Do INOCULATE at the forage harvester!
  • DO ADD another PACK tractor or weight to existing tractors.
  • Consider harvest strategies such as HAY IN A DAY to lower weather risk and improve forage quality. Hay in a Day YouTube video:
  • Keep windrows up off the ground to minimize soil contamination at harvest.

Alfalfa height at optimum mixed stand NDF graphIssues with wet haylage:

  • Reduced intake
  • Potential health problems -ketosis
  • And for problems to get worse with time
  • Dispose of silage with very high (>2%) butyric acid content
  • Bad silage can be good fertilizer.

Don’t fill your storage with poor first cutting.  You’ll feel duty-bound to feed out even as it depresses production, cash flow and you.

1st Cutting is just around the Corner

Despite the wet start to the season, we have had more heat than many think.  So even though other aspects of springs work are behind the hay is not, with reports from around NYS showing that it is on track for this time of May.  So take the time to check those hayfields starting now!

Inoculants to Minimize Risk with Haylage Made Under Adverse Conditions?

The probability you may be forced into putting up at least some of 1st crop wetter than you would like has gone up with near-normal relative maturity for the date (5/5/11) and saturated soils. Having an effective forage inoculant on hand with a track record of pushing fermentation towards “normal” and away from “clostridial” is good risk management.

Manufacturers and suppliers of inoculants practice supply and demand risk management. They cannot afford to be hung out to dry with pallets full of unsold/unused product. There is only so much product available beyond the pre-orders taken during the winter. If you act fast you may have a shot at some supply.

Effective inoculant? Not much controlled research is done testing inoculants under these known (wet) adverse conditions. Yet we seem to face them more often than we’d like. Check the literature that was dropped off by the representative. Look for actual forage analyses of wet haylage put up under actual farm conditions within the past 5 years with their inoculant.           Make sure it was truly “wet”, in the 28 – 34% dry matter range (or worse).  A slow, cold clostridial fermentation consumes energy, creates intake-depressing butyric acid and breaks down the nitrogen in protein to ammonia.  If use of the inoculant was a financial “win” for the farm, these key measures will serve as gauges.  pH < 4.5, Lactic Acid > 2 (alfalfa) – 3 (grass), Acetic Acid < 2 (alfalfa) – 3 (grass), Butyric Acid < 0.1 and Ammonia as % of N < 15.

Is It Too Late for Spring Forage Seedings?

Wet soil conditions and delayed field work have prompted questions on how late alfalfa or clover/grass seedings can be made.  The typical spring planting window is April through early May for NNY.  Early June is not an ideal time to establish new seedings.  The warm soil temperatures and hot weather will bring on large flushes of annual weeds, putting the new forage seedlings at a disadvantage. Consider shifting seedings to early August.  In the meantime if you need tonnage you can put in an annual crop after hay is harvested.

If oats are used as a companion crop, their rate of seeding should be reduced to half of normal (or even eliminated) with May seedings.

When is it Time to Stop Planting Corn Altogether?

Effect on yeild of delayed planting of corn by hybrid maturityHere is a graph showing the effect on yield of delayed planting according to hybrid maturity.  Unfortunately I don’t think there is enough seed available for many farms to be able to switch out their longer season hybrids for short ones at this point.  While it is important to keep hybrid maturity in mind, there are a number of other factors you need to consider for your farm.  Here are a few of the considerations that may apply:

  • Hybrid Maturity you ordered/have on hand
  • Forage Inventories
  • Ability to store and segregate different forages
  • Capacity/ability of your landbase

Excerpt from: 2011 Cornell Guide For Integrated Field Crop Management
To achieve the full yield potential of an early planting date, full-season hybrids (hybrids that match the growing degree days in a region) are necessary. After the first or second week of May, however, the yield potential of full-season hybrids decreases appreciably. Furthermore, full-season hybrids may not mature in the fall if planted after the second week of May. Therefore, for grain production, full-season hybrids should be planted only in late April or the first 10 days of May. For silage production, full-season hybrids can be planted until mid-May. The majority of corn acreage should be planted to medium-season hybrids (200 growing degree days less than the growing degree days in a region). If planting must be delayed until late May or early June, early-season hybrids are recommended.

Corn planted after late June will be sloppy wet and hard to deal with at harvest and feedout.

Warm Season Annual Forage Crops

Warm season annual forage crops provide additional forage when perennial forages are in short supply.  While some farmers include them as part of their regular cropping system, many plant them for emergency forage crops.  Delayed spring planting and following winterkilled alfalfa are situations where these crops fit on the farm.

Most warm season annual forage crops can be planted anytime between early June and mid July.  There are many warm season annual forage crops that can be successfully grown in Northern New York.  Teff and brown midrib (BMR) sorghum sudangrass are two warm season annual grasses that are well suited to our region.

Teff is a warm season annual grass that can be grown for hay, silage or pasture.  Despite the fact that there has been very little teff grown in NNY, local research has demonstrated that it has the potential to produce high quality forage under proper management.  See Agronomy Factsheets “Teff as an Emergency Forage”

In a one cut system, 1.5 to 2 tons DM per acre are expected, while in a 2 to 3 cut system, dry matter yields range from 3.3 to 4.9 tons per acre.  When harvested at the proper time and sufficient nitrogen applied, crude protein will generally be between 15 and 16% of dry matter.

Brown Midrib Sorghum Sudangrass (BMR SxS) is a low lignin, highly digestible, warm-season, annual grass.  It can be high yielding but harvest management can be an issue given its high moisture content. See Agronomy Factsheet “Brown Midrib Sorghum Sudangrass, Part 1”

Dry matter yields of 3 to 5.5 tons per acre are expected and when harvested at the proper time with sufficient nitrogen applied, crude protein will generally be between 15 and 16% of dry matter.

Warm season annual forages can provide needed forage at key times during the year and have been used successfully by producers for many years.  In addition to Teff and BMR SxS, other options include Spring Grains, Buckwheat and Japanese Millet. Several factors should be considered before planting any crop.  If you have any questions about growing summer annuals contact your local Extension office.



John Conway and Janice Degni, South Central NY Dairy & Field Crops Team

Mike Hunter and Ron Kuck, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County

Frans Vokey and Joe Lawrence, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Lewis County

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