April 2022 Forage Report

alfalfa in spring, 10 cm tall

Fall 2021/Winter 2022

Fall of 2021 was warm and open. Many regions of the province saw heavier fall growth in hay fields and pastures than normal because of the late killing frost. While this does not pose any issues for alfalfa, excessive top growth can cause smothering in grass/clover stands.

Average to above-average precipitation between November 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022 in northwestern Ontario started the process of recharging groundwater reserves following the 2021 drought.

map of Ontario depicting the percent of average precipitation received between November 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022

April Conditions

Temperatures for the first half of the month were in line with long-term averages but remained cool in the second half of the month. This put field work about a week behind normal, although the very early spring of 2021 made this year feel later than it was. Above-average precipitation continued in the northwest.

map of Ontario depicting the percent of average rainfall received in April 2022

In general, fields that suffered winterkill damage tended to be in the third production year and beyond. Guidelines around alfalfa longevity are no longer based on years, but rather on the lifetime number of cuts. Depending on variety, field conditions, and harvest schedule, alfalfa should be terminated after 9-12 cuts. Keeping the stand beyond this point results in over-stressing the plants, which increases their susceptibility to disease and insect pressure, and reduces the yield potential. Since the harvest cost per acre remains virtually unchanged between low- and high-yielding crops, maintaining high forage yields keeps the cost per tonne low. Scheduled termination and rotation enables producers to manage alfalfa for high yields.

South and West

  • Reports of greater than normal levels of winterkill in Niagara, Elgin, Middlesex, and Oxford counties.

Central and East

  • Alfalfa stands generally overwintered well in the eastern part of the province, and very well in the central counties.
  • Most of the winter cereals grown in this part of the province are for forage, and these also overwintered in excellent condition.

Northeast and Northwest