Forage Report – July 24, 2013

Ontario Forage Expo 2013
Ontario Forage Expo 2013

Good haying weather returned July 11th, with lots of first and second-cut being made. Considerably more baleage was made and more propionate hay preservative was used this year. There is some concern about hay that is heating in storage. (Refer to “Silo and Hay Mow Fires” at Yields have been quite variable across the province. Some areas have excess hay, while others are still rebuilding inventories. Supplies of early-cut hay without rain-damage or mould are very tight and will likely be priced at a premium. Late-cut but “green” first-cut hay will satisfy much of the horse hay market. There is lots of rain-damaged and mouldy hay, so prices for poor quality hay will likely soften.

Seeding oats in late-July or early-August following wheat for an early-October harvest can be a useful double-crop, low-cost option for producing additional forage supplies. Oats can make excellent feed when harvested at the correct stage of maturity and made into “oatlage” or baleage. Peas can be added where higher forage quality is required.The challenges can sometimes be lack of adequate moisture in August for germination and growth, and having dry enough weather in October for adequate wilting.

The window for summer seeding alfalfa is approaching for much of the province.  Summer seeding of alfalfa can be successful, although an early-spring seeding is usually more reliable.  Summer seeding works best on light to medium textured, well-drained soils.  Alfalfa needs at least 6 weeks of growth after germination to develop a crown before killing frost to survive the winter. Recommended summer seeding dates are:

•           > 2900 CHU areas – August 10th – 20th

•           2500 – 2900 CHU areas – August 1st – 10th

•           < 2500 CHU areas- July 20th – 30th.

Lack of moisture for timely germination and growth can be a significant risk. If soil conditions are extremely dry and no rain is in the forecast, plans for summer seeding should be abandoned. Conserving soil moisture is critical, so use as little tillage as possible to create a fine, firm seedbed, drill the seed rather than broadcasting it, and follow with a press wheel or packer to ensure good seed-soil contact.  If following cereals, control of volunteer grain is essential to reduce competition. Do not use companion crops with summer seedings, as they compete for available soil moisture and reduce stand establishment. Seeding alfalfa after alfalfa is not recommended because of autotoxicity and disease.

Potato leafhoppers (PLH) are generally being reported at low levels, but some new seedings are being sprayed. PLH dramatically reduced alfalfa yield and forage quality last year. . New seedings are very susceptible and can be permanently damaged, so be sure to check these fields. Reduced stem and root growth, and vigour results in stunting and slow regrowthAdult PLH are 1/8th of an inch long, lime-green and wedge-shaped. They insert a stylet into a leaf midrib and inject a toxin that results in a wedge-shaped yellow “hopperburn”.  Damage is often confused with moisture and heat stress. Once hopperburn is observed, the damage is done and it is too late for control, so scout and be prepared to spray.