NY Corn Dry Down Observations – 9/3/2020

Contributed by Joe Lawrence – Dairy Forage Systems Specialist with Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY

I have been talking about how this season is reminiscent of 2018 for many areas of the state. Visually, we saw a very green healthy crop, but ears dried down fast and caught people off guard.  And, the same scenario seems to be in play this year given a number of reports I have seen as well as what’s been observed at some of our research plots.

I have also taken note of how some fields which received some drought ending rain after tasseling reminded me more of 2016 when we saw slower than normal dry down because the crop seemed to try to make up for lost ground during ear fill.

After a visit to our plot in Madrid, NY, the plot appears to look pretty good despite very low rainfall this year, which is acceptable given the circumstances. Of course, it’s not going to set any yield records but is decent corn with a good ear.

Today, the plot will hit 800 GDD’s since tasseling.  Based on previous research from Bill Cox, that would suggest it should be getting close to 32% DM. We know there is some variability in this number, but it has been pretty close with some of our other locations this year.

I took 2 samples when I visited Madrid  to check whole plant DM.

    • 97 day – 28% DM
    • 100 day – 25% DM

These numbers fall well below where we would expect given the tasseling date and GDD accumulation.  And as such, this location certainly seems to be lining up with what we observed in 2016.

For more on this topic, check out the 1st Episode, Corn Silage 2020 Season Recap, of the Cornell PRO-DAIRY Corn Silage Harvest Considerations Podcast Series.


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NNYADP Research: First-Ever Evaluation of European Meadow Fescue Varieties

Man in alfalfa field
NNYADP alfalfa-grass trials on regional dairy farms, include European meadow fescue varieties never before tested in North America. Photo: Jerry H. Cherney

Alfalfa-grass quality trials in northern New York State are evaluating European meadow fescue varieties never before tested in North America and the first modern variety of meadow fescue developed in the U.S. from plants isolated in southwestern Wisconsin. These trials support New York’s dairy industry by examining a forage crop grown to feed milking dairy cows.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) is funding the research that is being conducted by the Cornell University research team of Debbie J.R. Cherney, Ph.D., and Jerry H. Cherney, Ph.D. The latest results report of trials on farms in NNY is posted under the Research: Field Crops: Grasses tab at www.nnyagdev.org.

The NNYADP trials are evaluating the opportunity to add European varieties of meadow fescue, a winter-tolerant perennial grass, to alfalfa plantings. The goal is to successfully grow meadow fescue as 20-30 percent of a mix with alfalfa under northern New York conditions. The spring harvest may account for up to half of the total forage yield of a crop grown to feed milking dairy cows.

“These regional trials are providing insight into alfalfa-grass combinations that can increase forage fiber digestibility enough to significantly increase milk income using balanced rations,” Debbie J.R. Cherney said.

“Many of the European meadow fescue varieties we are evaluating were developed in harsher environments than those in northern New York, so they should overwinter successfully here, but we need to evaluate the opportunity for yield and quality and their competitiveness with alfalfa,” Jerry Cherney explained.

The U.S.-bred meadow fescue in the NNYADP trial showed the highest neutral detergent fiber digestibility of the 19 varieties trialed in 2019. The seed supply of the variety known as Hidden Valley for the farm from which the variety has originated sold out almost immediately after it became available. The NNYADP trial data indicated that the Hidden Valley meadow fescue grew at the desired grass percentage in tandem with alfalfa.

Six farms in northern New York are participating in these forage research trials. In 2019, one farm harvested the trial plots twice, another farm harvested three times, and another participant harvested four times. A fourth farm successfully established a new seeding in 2019. Two additional farms joined the project in 2020, seeding trials with three new meadow fescue varieties released by a German seed company.

Harvested samples are assayed for alfalfa-grass percentage and alfalfa and grass quality in terms of crude protein, lignin, and fiber; dry matter yield; and evaluated for the influence of soil type, drainage, fertilization, seeding rate, and harvesting schedule on crop quality.

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. Learn more at www.nnyagdev.org.

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2020 Cornell Guide for Integrated Field Crop Management Now Available

2020 Field Crops Guide CoverThe Pesticide Management Education Program (PMEP) at Cornell University is pleased to announce the availability of the 2020 Cornell Guide for Integrated Field Crop Management.

Written by Cornell University specialists, this publication is designed to offer producers, seed and chemical dealers, and crop consultants practical information on growing and managing field corn, forages, small grains, and soybeans. Topics covered include nutrient management, soil health, variety selection, and common field crop pest concerns. A preview of the Field Crops Guide can be seen online at https://cropandpestguides.cce.cornell.edu.

Highlighted changes in the 2020 Cornell Field Crops Guide include:

    • Revised pesticide options for economically important field crop pests.
    • Updated corn, forage, and small grain variety trial and research data.
    • Pesticides available for stored grain management.

Cornell Crop and Pest Management Guidelines are available as a print copy, online-only access, or a package combining print and online access. The print edition of the 2020 Field Crops Guide costs $31 plus shipping. Online-only access is $31. A combination of print and online access costs $43.50 plus shipping costs for the printed book.

Cornell Guidelines can be obtained through your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office or from the Cornell Store at Cornell University. To order from the Cornell Store, call (844) 688-7620 or order online at https://www.cornellstore.com/books/cornell-cooperative-ext-pmep-guidelines.

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Building Resilience into Organic Forage Systems Field Day to be Held August 14th

Interseeded clover in forages.
Interseeded clover in forages. Photo: Matt Ryan

Join Kirk and Kathie Arnold at Twin Oaks Dairy on August 14th from 10:00-2:00 and learn about alternative summer forages, mixed intercropping, interseeding into corn, and double cropping with triticale and sorghum sudangrass. Cornell researchers will discuss improving soil health and other ways farmers can build resilience to extreme weather events. The NY Soil Health Trailer will also be on-site with demonstrations to show participants how healthy soil compares to degraded soil. (Lunch included, please register here: https://nofany.secure.nonprofitsoapbox.com/fielddays). Twin Oaks Dairy, 3185 NY-13, Truxton, NY 13158.

  • 10:00 to 10:15 – Opening remarks (Kirk Arnold, Fay Benson, and Robert)
  • 10:15 to 10:30 – Forge Intercropping for Resilience (Ann Bybee-Finley and Dr. Matt Ryan)
  • 10:30 to 11:15 – Demonstration trial of alternative summer annual forages (Ann, Matt, Fay, Kirk, and Rod Porter)
  • 11:15 to 12:00 – Farmer panel about adapting to extreme weather
  • 12:00 to 1:00 – Lunch
  • 1:00 to 1:30 – Soil health demo (Fay and Joseph Amsili)
  • 1:30 to 1:45 – Industry insights (Rod)
  • 1:45 to 2:00 – Crop insurance (Fay) and tour of Buckwheat field

Pre-registration for the field day will close two days before the event, but walk-ins are always welcome. For more information, please contact Fay Benson, afb3@cornell.edu.

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NNYADP Research: Alfalfa-Grass Forage Trials Improving Choices for Farmers and Cows

Alfalfa-grass mixture trial
This alfalfa-grass research trial planted in Lewis County, N.Y., is a mix of 25 percent meadow fescue and 75 percent alfalfa. Photo: Debbie J.R. Cherney

Alfalfa is an excellent source of protein in the dairy cow diet. Research funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) is evaluating new opportunities to grow alfalfa in combination with grass species to provide dairy farmers with the opportunity to enhance forage yield, quality, and digestibility. The results of the most recent alfalfa-grass mix trials conducted by Cornell University researchers are posted on the NNYADP website at www.nnyagdev.org.

The field trials, which continue in 2019, rank the alfalfa-grass varieties and mixes for factors that influence milk production. Those factors include fiber digestibility, crude protein, and lignin. Lignin is a fiber component of alfalfa that helps the plant grow upright, but at higher levels decreases the digestibility of that alfalfa in a dairy ration.

Early indications show that a combination of reduced-lignin alfalfa planted with the right meadow fescue can result in a large increase in forage digestibility, which in turn encourages proper daily dry matter feed intake by cows to support milk production.

The on-farm trials in Jefferson and Lewis counties are focused on meadow fescue varieties that are winter-hardy and add the opportunity for higher fiber digestibility.

“Our results continue to show that meadow fescue has great potential to significantly improve forage quality when planted with a high quality alfalfa. These regionalized trials are especially important for analyzing the localized conditions that impact grass yield and quality,” said project leader Debbie J.R. Cherney, a Cornell University professor of Animal Science.

Cherney says climate naturally plays a key role in how each type of crop in the mix matures.

“Alfalfa growth in primarily controlled by heat units or growing degree days, while grass development in the spring is driven by day length. Depending on the conditions in any given year, one crop in the mix may mature at a normal rate, while the other can be significantly delayed,” Cherney explained.

The varieties under evaluation in the Northern New York trials include those grown from meadow fescue seed developed in European environments that are cooler and with a shorter growing season than in Northern New York.

The research data indicates that while grass percentage in the mix can impact yield and the crude protein content of the grass, it does not significantly impact other forage quality measurements for the alfalfa or grass in the mix.

The next objective for the alfalfa-grass research team is to evaluate opportunities to achieve a consistent 20-30 percent, high quality grass mixture from year-to-year under variable growing conditions. The research plan in 2019 includes assessing the impact of different seeding rates for meadow fescue planted with reduced-lignin alfalfa and testing a large group of meadow fescue varieties, many of which have not yet been grown in North America.

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.

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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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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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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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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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSsQvVga6tw
  • 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” http://nmsp.cals.cornell.edu/guidelines/factsheets.html

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” http://nmsp.cals.cornell.edu/guidelines/factsheets.html

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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Corn and Alfalfa Growers: Plan to Apply NNY Nematode Biocontrol Now

A young farmer applies biocontrol nematodes to his alfalfa field using a farm-made applicator unit in Lewis County. Photo: Joe Lawrence

Northern N.Y., March 20, 2019.  New York corn growers can now reap the benefits of the long-term commitment made by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) to the research needed for managing the most destructive alfalfa crop pest. Not only does the science-built biocontrol nematode protocol significantly reduce alfalfa snout beetle populations, it also has shown management capacity for dealing with corn rootworm, wireworm, and white grubs.

“We are confident that dairy farmers who inoculate their fields with these biocontrol nematodes for management of alfalfa snout beetle or corn rootworm are also benefitting from reduced populations of wireworms and white grub insects,” Cornell University entomologist Elson Shields, Ph.D., Ithaca, N.Y., said.

The successful biocontrol nematode protocol developed by Shields and research technical Antonio Testa is now being applied to multiple crops in New York State and in multiple states.

More than 500,000 acres in New York State are known to have alfalfa snout beetle infestation. Shields’ research team estimates the total cost of alfalfa snout beetle left untreated on a farm  ranges from $300 to $600 per cow. The one-time cost of applying the biocontrol nematodes is approximately $30 per acre, plus any application costs.

Farmers interested in applying the biocontrol nematodes through the Shields Lab rearing program at Cornell have only a three-year window to do so. It requires three to five years to totally inoculate a farm to significantly reduce the alfalfa snout beetle populations. The Shields Lab will stop rearing the nematodes as part of its research program in 2021.

For more information on purchasing the biocontrol nematodes and information on proper application methods, growers should contact the Shields Lab at least 45 days prior to a planned application. Contact Tony Testa at 607-591-1493 or at28@cornell.edu. Farmers can also work through Cornell Cooperative Extension Field Crops Specialists Kitty O’Neil and Mike Hunter, and Doug Zehr with the Lowville Farmers Co-Op.

Farmers interested in applying the biocontrol nematodes for corn rootworm management may be eligible to participate in a Northeast Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education grant for the next three years to receive reduced biocontrol nematode pricing on a limited basis. For more information, contact Mike Hunter at 315-788-8450 or Tony Testa at 607-591-1493 for details.

Research has shown that a single application of the biocontrol nematodes can persist for 10 years across an alfalfa-corn rotation and that the nematode population was higher after four years of corn than in alfalfa before the corn planting.

Since 2010, more than 20,000 acres of alfalfa in Northern New York have received a biocontrol nematode application.  At least one new nematode-rearing business enterprise was started as a result of the NNYADP-funded research and technical training on the biocontrol nematodes. Custom applicators in the region have also provided nematode application services.

The Shields Lab is available to work with anyone who would like to develop a business enterprise to supply nematodes to custom applicators or to farmers who wish to apply them on their own.

The NNYADP website at www.nnyagdev.org includes Shields’ research reports on development of the alfalfa snout beetle biocontrol solution, the results of NNYADP-funded field and laboratory trials developing alfalfa snout beetle-resistant alfalfa varieties, and more recent studies of the impact of the biocontrol nematodes on corn rootworm and on applying the biocontrol nematodes in liquid manure.

Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Senate and administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

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