Are you prepared to change your routine this spring?

By: Joe Lawrence, Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY and Ron Kuck, Cornell Cooperative Extension North Country Regional Ag Team

While spring tasks vary by farm, there are many “rites of spring,” and they are often completed in a fairly rigid sequence. Depending on the farm, these often include fixing fence, spreading manure, planting new seedings, planting corn and harvesting first cutting, and are often performed in this order.

We are optimistic that the upcoming turn in weather will allow these tasks to be accomplished in a timely manner, but at this point it is time to ask yourself: Are you willing to change your spring routine?

In addition to adverse weather it is no secret that everyone is facing extremely tight economic times, and dealing with forage inventories of poor digestibility forages from 2017. This combination of factors makes it more critical than ever to be ready to tackle the task that will have the most impact on your business at the proper time.

Recent reference articles on dealing with tough times:

First Cutting
The number one focus should be on timely harvest of first cutting.

Corn Planting
The window for planting for silage is generally wider than for grain, which is why first cutting can and should take priority over corn planting. However, in the event of extreme delays in planting corn, performance will diminish with late plantings. If corn planting progresses into late May or early June, begin to consider alternative options for those acres. Previous research from Cornell and Penn State suggest a 0.5 to 1 ton/acre per week decline in silage yield for planting after mid to late May.

First and foremost during a time of year that can be very busy and stressful, taking every precaution to keep your team safe is critical.

The idea of fitting all of this work into a condensed time period, and still getting key tasks completed before critical deadlines can seem impossible, but year after year many find unique ways to get it all done. Consider working with neighbors, custom operators or renting equipment to accomplish these key tasks on time.

If you currently utilize custom operators, now is a good time to set up a time to meet with them and make sure you are on the same page to get tasks accomplished in the time-frame needed. Make sure that your expectations and goals are clearly defined. They will also be under stress to fit their work into a condensed period and meet their customers’ expectations, so defining expectations and pre-planning how to most efficiently get the work accomplished when the custom operator arrives can go a long way to increase the chances for success.

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Snow Mold/Brown Root Rot Focus of Farmer-Driven NNYADP Research

This photo shows the third production year plot-to-plot differences (front to back) in alfalfa plots planted for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program-funded brown root rot research trials conducted by Cornell University. Photo: Julie L. Hansen, Cornell

Late winter and early spring are the primary times when brown root rot, also known as snow mold, may be damaging Northern New York alfalfa, a highly valued forage crop for dairy cows and other livestock. With funding from the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, Cornell University researchers are evaluating opportunities to develop alfalfa that is both adapted to the colder Northern New York climate and able to resist brown root rot.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has recently posted the results of a three-year study by Cornell University researchers developing alfalfa populations after exposure to the brown root rot fungus and ice sheeting at

The parasitic fungal plant pathogen Phoma sclerotioides is the causal agent of brown root rot that damages the roots and crowns of alfalfa plants, other perennial legumes, and overwintering grasses.

“The plants that survive the winter of 2017-18 in a field with high brown root rot pressure in Northern New York will be excellent candidates for new cultivar development through successive plant breeding,” said project leader Julie L. Hansen, a plant breeding and genetics specialist at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

Northern New York field trials funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program have shown that brown root rot-resistant alfalfa varieties grown in Saskatchewan and Wyoming perform poorly under the Northern New York climate and growing conditions.

Brown root rot was first detected on alfalfa in the eastern United States in 2003 in Northern New York in Clinton County. It has also been found in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Ontario, Canada, with reports of alfalfa yield loss, winterkill, slow spring emergence from dormancy, and stand decline over time.

The work to identify cultivars that have the best opportunity to grow under Northern New York regional conditions has new funding from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program for research in 2018.

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. Project results are posted online at

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2017 NNY Harvest Data Will Add to BMR vs Non-BMR Corn Research

Corn harvesting at Miner Institute, site of NNYADP BMR vs. Non-BMR Corn Research

Chazy, N.Y. The 2017 corn harvest in Northern New York is providing data to researchers with a grant from the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program to compare forage quality and yield between two distinct types of corn.

‘We are interested to see if yields for the 2017 crop will continue to show no consistent difference between the BMR and non-BMR hybrids grown for silage,’ said project leader Eric O. Young, research agronomist at the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, Chazy, N.Y.

‘In our regional trials to date the BMR hybrids have had a distinct advantage in fiber digestibility and therefore milk production potential,’ Young added.

Brown MidRib, or BMR, corn has a naturally-occurring genetic variation that produces higher fiber digestibility that, in turn, increases the milk production potential of dairy cows. However, farmers are concerned that BMR corn may not yield as well as non-BMR corn hybrids.

‘Until this project funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program there has been relatively little research evaluating performance among brown midrib hybrids and non-BMR hybrids with respect to yield and forage quality,’ Young noted.

The research in Northern NY includes commercially-available BMR hybrids currently on the market.

Data from the 2017 harvest will be compared with trial results with five corn hybrids grown at two farm sites in 2015 and 2016. Crop samples were evaluated for yield, digestibility, percent dry matter, acidity, starch and other components, silage fermentation and quality after harvest.

Young notes, ‘The differences in yield, starch, and fiber digestibility all have important implications for dairy ration formulation and farm economics. Our early results in the Northern New York trials have shown clear differences in fiber digestibility related to corn hybrid genetics.’

This research provides a data foundation for analyzing the potential milk production impact of using BMR and non-BMR hybrids in the dairy cow total mixed ration.

The 2015 and 2016 NNY BMR evaluation reports are posted on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program funds agricultural research and technical assistance in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. 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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The Capital Area Ag Report – August 15, 2017

Here is this week’s Ag Report: The Ag Report, 8-15-2017

Topics in this issue:
Advice for a difficult crop year.
Grain Bin Safety
Winter Rye Varieties
Fall Forages

Aaron Gabriel
Sr. Extension Resource Educator, Agronomy
Cornell Cooperative Extension
415 Lower Main St.
Hudson Falls, NY 12839
518-380-1496 cell
518-746-2560 office

Cornell Cooperative Extension
Capital Area Agriculture and Horticulture Program

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2017 Corn Diseases and Plant Health in a Wet Growing Season

Ken Wise, NYS IPM-Cornell University
Joe Lawrence, PRO-DAIRY-Cornell University

The current 2017 wet/rainy weather and high humidity can create a situation where diseases can become an issue in corn. While there are several foliar diseases that can occur on corn under these conditions, gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight have been especially problematic over the last several years. Gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight can cause yield losses and the risk of infection may be an issue this year. What should a grower do about it? While applying protective fungicides is an option, there are several things to consider before spraying. Here are a few steps to follow when making a decision.

  1. Scout fields for the gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight at tasseling. If there are lesions on leaves at or above the corn ear exceeding 5% of the plant leaf area consider a fungicide. If lesions develop later after tasseling, then economic benefits from using a fungicide will be less.
  2. Does your hybrid have at least moderate resistance? This can make a big difference in yield and likely will not require a fungicide application. Disease symptoms may be present in resistant corn, but a fungicide most likely will not increase yield.
  3. Crop rotation and tillage is an effective method to control the fungi. The longer the rotation the less inoculum will be on the surface. If you maintain no-tillage, zone-tillage or reduced tillage rotating away from corn for 2 years can help reduce pathogen populations.
  4. Fungicides can be very effective when disease exists above the economic threshold. However, fungicides are protective not curative, so applications need to be made before the full extent of disease damage is known. It is generally not economical to spray fungicide on silage corn.


Gray Leaf Spot (Cercospora zeae-maydis)

Early symptoms are yellow to tan lesions with a faint watery halo. As the lesion progresses, it turns brown and is rectangular in shape, between the veins. When fully developed the lesion can be 3 to 4 inches long and a 1/6 to 1/8 inch wide. The fungus can overwinter on corn debris left on the soil surface. Sporulation occurs during warm and humid weather in late spring. The spores can be transmitted by both wind and rain. In some cases gray leaf spot can reduce corn yields from 5 to 40 bushels per acre.

Northern Corn Leaf Blight- Exserohilum turcicum

The symptoms are long, cigar-shaped lesions that are about a 1/8 to ¼ inch wide. The lesions can be many inches long. Lesions are grayish-tan and have a pigmented border. There are numerous races of the pathogen, some of which overcome resistance genes deployed in many of the corn varieties grown in NY. The fungus overwinters on corn crop residue from previous years.

Other foliar diseases of corn to look out for this season

Plant Health
Certain fungicides now carry a label for plant health benefits when used at the V4-5 stage and, if warranted, again at tasseling. Product labels suggest potential yield and quality benefits from their use. Cornell University is conducting field evaluations to better understand the economic returns of using fungicides in this manner.

Forage Quality
There are numerous factors affecting the forage quality of corn silage. Major factors on overall quality include whole plant maturity at harvest, ear to stover ratio and seasonal weather patterns. A healthy plant with minimal damage to plant tissue is able to mature to desired corn silage dry matter content in a more efficient and timely manner.

It is extremely difficult to predict the chances of mycotoxin issues in silage. It is important to recognize that mycotoxins only develop on living plant tissue and therefore the necrotic tissue resulting from leaf diseases are not an indicator of potential mycotoxin risk.

Plant injury to living tissue, where mycotoxins can develop, such as feeding damage on the ears and stalk do offer a pathway for disease organisms and moisture to get into the plant and wet conditions late in the growing season can increase the chances of mold development. Again it is very important to understand there is not a clear causal relationship, even when an ear or stalk mold is present it is not a sure indication that mycotoxins will develop. It is important to work with your nutrition consultant at harvest to test for potential mycotoxin issues.

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Capital Area Ag Report – July 20, 2017

This week’s Ag Report will just be this post.  I was in Utah last week for the National Association of Agricultural Agents.  At the tradeshow, they had a “steam generating machine” between the tractor and baler. Out there they have to add moisture to bale alfalfa so it does not crumble from the dryness.  What a contrast to our situation this year!

  • This week I scouted corn for diseases, as part of our fungicide trial.  All the plots were clean.
  • There was one report of armyworm last week.  Check all corn, grass, pastures, and small grain fields for armyworm.  There are spotty infestations in eastern NY.  If grasses do not regrow like normal, check for armyworm eating all the re-growth.
  • Spring barley is ripening, but not yet ready for harvest.  The more I learn about malting barley, the more I realize how tricky this crop can be.  Despite our weather, I have seen no head blight – thanks to timely fungicide applications.
  • Potato leafhopper have been severe since before I left.  Check alfalfa fields.  Adult PLH will migrate to a different field when alfalfa or clover is harvested.  Keep an eye on adjacent fields.
  • I am not sure what advice to give to dry hay growers.  Beef and horse owners are in tough shape since all their hay is still in the field.  Consider having uncut fields harvested for haylage and put in a pile or made into baleage.  If properly fermented, horses can eat haylage, but if the fermentation is bad, they can be quite sensitive.  It is a slight risk.  Also, a machine called the Macerator conditions haycrop after mowing.  It is basically a roller mill that speeds drying.  However, it also softens coarse hay.  So, if we do get any good hay weather, this would be a good machine to use on rank hay.  I only know of one in our area.

Hang in there.

Aaron Gabriel,
Sr. Extension Resource Educator, Agronomy
Cornell Cooperative Extension
415 Lower Main St.
Hudson Falls, NY 12839
518-380-1496 cell
518-746-2560 ofc

Cornell Cooperative Extension
Capital Area Agriculture and Horticulture Program

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Capital Area Ag Report – June 28, 2017

Here is this week’s Ag Report, The Ag Report, 6/28/2017

There will be no formal Ag Report for the next couple of weeks.

Topics in this issue:

  • Potato Leafhopper
  • Tall Fescue issues
  • Anthracnose leaf blight
  • Barley pollination

Aaron Gabriel,
Sr. Extension Resource Educator, Agronomy

Cornell Cooperative Extension
415 Lower Main St.
Hudson Falls, NY 12839
518-380-1496 cell
518-746-2560 ofc

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Hail damage: Resources for replanting decisions

Reports of hail have come in from various areas of the state, worse in some areas than others.  If hail was significant in your area it will be important to get out and look at fields to assess damage.  Corn is quite tolerant of defoliation at the growth stages being reported around the state, as long as the growing point was not injured.  See attached tables with estimated yield reductions based on percent defoliation and stage of growth.

Additionally, find some pictures and field information from a past hail event at around the same point in the year (June 30, 2006) with corresponding yields of the damaged field.

In the event that the field does need to be replanted there are still some options.  A recent newsletter from Tom Kilcer at Advanced Ag Systems provides timely information on remaining options for forage needs.

With any emergency forage the first questions are when can we get it in the ground and what will it yield; however, it is very important to think ahead on how this extra forage will fit into your system.
·         Who will you feed it to?
·         How will you store it so it is accessible for feeding the to the intended group of animals?
·         How much of it will you have, will there be enough tons (acres planted x yield) to incorporate into your feeding programs without drastic disruptions in the animals diet that could lead to other issues?
It is good to involve your nutritionist in conversations about what crop options exist and how they could best be utilized.

Please contact us or your local CCE specialist with any additional questions.

Joe Lawrence, Karl Czymmek, Quirine Ketterings

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