Wild, Wacky Winter Weather

Weather’s effect on alfalfa and forage fields Alfalfa

Author: Mike Rankin, Hay & Forage Grower

The weather geeks at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tell us that 2016 was the second warmest year for the U.S. in the 122 years of record keeping. It was the 24th wettest year, but we also had double the record number of inland flooding events.

What’s done is done, but 2017 is not exactly starting out as anything close to normal in many U.S. regions. The impact on the forage industry, especially alfalfa, looms heavy; it almost always does in matters concerning weather.

Let’s begin in the West where Dan Putnam, extension forage specialist for the University of California-Davis, recently reported that some fields in northern California are flooded from relentless rains. It was needed moisture, for sure, but Putnam points out that there can be consequences to long-term ponding on alfalfa fields.

“The extent of either (plant) death or damage depends upon temperature, drainage, alfalfa growth status, and duration of flooding,” Putnam notes in a recent Alfalfa & Forage News blog.

He explains that dormant alfalfa varieties under cool or cold conditions may tolerate winter flooding more so than the green, actively growing plants in the warmer, desert regions. This is because plant respiration rates are much slower, somewhat buffering the effect of anaerobic (no oxygen) conditions caused by flooded or waterlogged soils.

In addition to the impairment of the plant to “breath,” Putnam notes that flooded alfalfa plants may suffer root damage in the form of fine root hair death, pruning, and weakened nitrogen-fixing nodules. Saturated soils also impair the uptake of micronutrients and predispose plants to disease infections. New seedings planted last fall are especially susceptible to damage.

A warm and wet Midwest

Some early December snow set the stage for a desired winter groundcover in most of the Upper Midwest. It didn’t last long as temperatures warmed with the new year and were accompanied by volumes of liquid precipitation in many areas. Temperatures in the 40s and 50s are not normal for January, but they have been this year, even in the northern states.

Many fields contain standing water with thawed or thawing saturated soils. Given that winter is far from the finish line, the concern now turns to ice formation if the water doesn’t infiltrate the soil before colder temperatures return.

“A solid layer of ice restricts air diffusion and suffocates alfalfa plants,” says Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin extension forage agronomist. “Solid ice is more devastating than ice that is cracked or where plant stems are sticking above the ice layer,” he adds. As with water, the duration of ice cover plays a large role in determining the potential for damage.

Undersander doesn’t recommend any remedial practices when ice forms over alfalfa fields. Practices such as pulling a disk across the field to break the ice or applying fertilizer to melt the ice are generally of little consequence and often can cause more damage than if fields were left alone.

The waiting game

It’s never easy to predict damage incurred to alfalfa during winter. Be it water or ice, the effects of damage, or lack thereof, are usually not known for weeks and sometimes months into the future.

Past history tells us that the spectrum of potential damage is wide, ranging from total death to slightly weakened plants. In the latter case, both Putnam and Undersander suggest conservative management during the upcoming growing season. Let plants reach 10 percent bloom to build carbohydrate reserves before taking the initial cutting. Also, be vigilant to ensure adequate soil fertility and control pests. Insects often prefer stressed plants. Where possible, also try to control weeds.

Though nothing can be done at this time, it doesn’t hurt to develop a backup plan if the worst-case scenario comes to fruition. Think about alternative crop rotations, possible interseeding strategies for new seedings, annual forages that could fill a short-term feeding need, and when or where new seedings might be established in 2017. Then hope none of those plans will ever be needed.

Full article shared from Hay & Forage Grower website.

AFGC Celebrates National Forage Week

Campaign includes social media sharing component using #NationalForageWeek and #ForageFanaticFoto Alfalfa

Author: Progressive Forage Grower

The American Forage and Grassland Council (AFGC) is celebrating National Forage Week with the agricultural community June 19-25, 2016.

Slightly less than 2 percent of the total U.S. population lives on a farm, making it more difficult for the general public to relate to farming and the accompanying benefits and challenges.

AFGC strives to bring farming and forages into greater public awareness with National Forage Week.

Chris Agee, AFGC president from Madison, Georgia, says, “National Forage Week was first celebrated last year and was well received by the forage community as one might expect, but more importantly others outside of the forage community were made aware of the importance of forage.

“AFGC’s goal is to increase awareness of forages and we’ve got a long way to go, but as AFGC and its state affiliate councils get the word out at the local level, we’ll make progress.”

The National Forage Week campaign is designed to raise awareness and educate the public about the role of forages in dairy and meat consumption.

Gary Bates, chairman of the AFGC National Forage Week committee, says, “We often take forage crops for granted. Many people do not realize how much forage plants impact their lives. From meat and dairy all the way to ornamental grasses, forages touch most people’s lives in some fashion.”

The National Forage Week promotion includes social media blitzes, photo fliers for local circulation, cameo videos, email blasts and press releases. Any groups or individuals wishing to engage in the promotion are encouraged to email AFGC at info@afgc.org to receive promotional links or materials.

The campaign is expected to grow each year to add additional coverage in farming publications and congressional designation.

AFGC is asking for support at the local level from forage producers across the nation to help get the word out locally and by posting on Facebook, Twitter or other social media posts.

Agee says, “I encourage everyone to share the National Forage Week video that’s online at the AFGC website and share your forage experiences at #NationalForageWeek or share a forage photo at #ForageFanaticFoto because forage isn’t just about food and fiber, but water quality and soil conservation too.”

To learn more about participation in National Forage Week, visit the American Forage & Grassland Council website.

Full article shared from Progressive Forage Grower website.

Transition Success Tips

How to transition young people into farm ownership


Dobler and Sons, a family farm based in the Central Coast region of California

Author: Anna-Lisa Laca, AgWeb

The Moes began milking cows in South Dakota in 1884. The family’s fourth generation, brothers Jim and Greg, joined the operation in the early 1970s.
What was once a 200-cow dairy is now a 2,000-cow dairy, a heifer-rearing facility and the farming operation. Three of the brothers’ sons have come back to the farm to transition into ownership, something Greg says took a lot of discussion and preparation over the years.

As farm families across the U.S. prepare to transition their businesses and land, it makes sense to ask the next generation of leaders: Are you ready to be an owner?

At MoDak Dairy, the Moes say their children began learning about the operation at a young age. “Preparing to take over the farm is something that happens as you go through,” Greg explains.

Qualify For Leadership. Once their kids were grown, the Moes made them work for someone else. Not only did their sons learn to work with others, Greg says, but working off the farm broadened their perspective and helped them realize what they want in life.

Although none of the Moes has been to college, Greg says the family has made it a priority to send their returning children to workshops and seminars to prepare for ownership.

Having the skills necessary to become a farm owner is something younger generations often overlook, says David Marrison, associate professor and Extension agent at The Ohio State University.

“We are really good at looking at the older generation and analyzing what they haven’t done,” Marrison says. “Are we taking the time to look at ourselves? Do we have the skills necessary to be successful?”

He advises young people interested in taking over the family farm to do a S.W.O.T. analysis to discover the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the business. “What do you need to learn to take over, and how will you do that?” he says.

In some cases, a lack of technical knowledge about a piece of accounting software might be remedied with a class at a local community college. Yet the younger generation also must learn leadership skills.

The Moes have sent their sons to several courses during the transition.
Initiate Changes. Once producers identify the things the next generation must do to come onboard, the next step is to identify the process by which the transition will occur.

Greg recommends developing a vision for the ideal transition and being prepared to discuss that vision for the future with your children when the time is right.

The hardest part of farm succession is the initial conversation, Marrison says. After all, every family has at least a little dysfunction.

After the initial conversation, Greg suggests taking that plan to trusted advisers for their feedback.

“The hardest part was coming up with what we wanted to do,” Greg says. “Talk to your accountants, but don’t let them dictate what you should do. When we first went to our accountant, they told us our idea wouldn’t work, but they figured it out and so far, it has worked.”

The farm is required to remain a single entity, and the majority of the operation will be gifted to children who wish to return to the farm.

“We wanted to give them a legacy so when they look back, they realize we wanted to keep it together like our grandparents and great-grandparents did,” Greg says.

Article shared from AgWeb website.