Note: For northeast and north central, triticale and rye are rapidly approaching harvest stage. It was driven by that short burst of warm weather. The region is now facing extended rainy weather to delay harvest. The silver lining is that the temperatures are supposed to be below 60 during the day and lower 40F, upper 30F at night. When this happens the quality of the forage often holds. I have had headed triticale with the same digestibility as flag leaf when these conditions occur. The 12 hour NDFd may drop but the 30 hour NDFd holds. Thus the forage may still be good for high producers and excellent for the middle group. If you are forced to make wetter forage, we suggest to chop it like we learned with sorghum – 3/4 to 1 inch long to reduced leachate. Use a homolactic inoculant and we suggest a higher rate to make up for potentially lower sugars. We have made perfectly fermented triticale at upper teens and lower 20 dry matter. We don’t like hauling all that water but you may not have a choice with the weather hand dealt this year.
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April 2023 Sorghum Good Bad Ugly
The last newsletter covered the research breakthrough of enhanced nutrition in BMR forage sorghum. Now for the rest of the story.
With the data from the 8th-week harvest, Dr. Larry Chase of Cornell University entered it into the Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System model. This gives us a prediction of how it would work in a real ration. The ration was balanced for an 85 lb./day production level. For the 2022 season, we went 8 weeks after heading (same as corn silage after tasseling) instead of the 6 of the 2020 season (right side of table below). The longer enhanced nutrition of the 8th week required only 0.6 of a pound of corn meal to equal a good corn silage in the diet. This was the same for the Pennsylvania trial and the Northern NY trial. The 2020 study which only went 6 weeks after heading required 0.9 lbs. of corn meal.
March 2023 Enhanced Nutrition Sorghum
The hypothesis we first broached in 2020 SARE research grant (Jan 2021 click to see) supporting the use of male sterile BMR sorghum with nutrient enhance harvest, has been validated by our Sorghum Check-Off repeated replicated research. Normal sorghum will have fertilized seeds at the top of the plant. The nutrients formed by photosynthesis after seed fertilization are preferentially moved to the seed sink much like a corn plant moves nutrients to the kernel on the ear. The difference is that the seeds of sorghum quickly get very hard and are not digested in the rumen. Their small size makes any processing difficult without destroying the forage effective fiber and turning the crop into soup. Additional research found that breaking the seed does little to increase the digestibility and the broken seed’s nutrition is lost out of the back of the cow. Adding insult to injury, having several pounds of seed at the top of an 8 to 12 foot stalk is a setup for lodging. Multiple times in my research we had a high yielding crop that was completely lodged before reaching harvest maturity.
February 2023 Caring for Soil Skin
The interface between the soil surface and the atmosphere above it is a critical juncture. Both vital air and water must cross this boundary to supply the root system beneath the soil. Numerous measurements have indicated that 60% of the roots are within 4 inches of this zone. Raindrops strike this interface with the force of little bombs, exploding the soil surface into tiny particles that then plug the porosity of the interface and stop air and water from crossing. If this wasn’t bad enough, most tillage systems are designed to pulverize the soil surface to kill emerged weeds and to provide a fine seed/soil contact for rapid germination. This makes the soil skin more susceptible to sealing of the surface pores. Except for semi-aquatic plants, oxygen at the root surface is critical for roots to use plant energy to grow and absorb nutrients. Air moves through the pores in the soil unless they are plugged.
December 2022 Fixing Compaction
The last newsletter covered how compaction forms in your fields. The yield loss and increased cost for a unit of production are real. Bigger tractors, even with more tires, and an attitude of we have to get this done, have increased the size of wet areas in the fields and turned even well drained soils into something much less. The popularity of the vertical tillage that farmers have been told they can go on the field anytime and it will dry it, results in tremendous compaction issues. One farm I worked with actually ripped the legs off of a deep tillage unit when they tried to remove the vertical tillage compaction. My research crop had only rooted 2 inches deep on that farm.
September/October 2022 Compaction
As we traverse corn fields chopping or combining, it is a key time to see if you have maximized yield. Several times in trials on farms I found I could pull corn plants up with no effort. The majority of roots were in the top 3 inches. Fall soil sampling (the best time) to maximize fertilizer inputs smartly and effectively, will often show the soil limitations as the probe hits compacted layer or can’t go in the ground at all. Soil compaction impacts root depth and available water. It can severely limit the available nutrients. They are there but can’t be reached. As farms and tractor size get bigger and “we HAVE to get this done” attitude, compacted soils will come up and bite you in the backside. We often blame bad weather (too much or too little rain). Use shovel to feel the compaction and to look at roots’ growth and pattern.
August 2022 Maximize Winter Forage Potential
For a number of farms, the forage supplies this year may be very tight. First the lack of rain, and then too much rain to late. The last newsletter covered what we can do this fall for an emergency forage crop. There is one crop you can plant this fall that can give you high yields of very high-quality forage earlier in the spring than any other crop – winter forage. Winter grains, specifically winter triticale, have been increasing acreage at a tremendous rate for the past 12 years as more farmers put their money there because the crop makes money. A bonus is that the very high digestible winter forage, when added to the ration as summer heat comes on, eliminates the formerly common “summer slump”.
July2022 Last Chance Forage
The dry weather has produced spotty crops. One area will have rain and decent crops while just a mile away the crop is struggling from the lack of water. What we have seen is that regardless of weather, farms that rotate frequently, and build their soils structure and organic matter with intensively managed winter forage, their crops are doing much better despite the conditions
June 2022 Why Sorghum
Corn is in, or not. The weather has been in a wild swing cycle that we have seen before. No, burning an agronomist at the stake will not help! With any shifting weather patterns, not putting all your eggs in one basket (or one crop) could give you a much more stable forage supply. One of those alternative crops is the often-ignored Brown Mid Rib forage sorghum or sorghum-Sudan. It is planted when the soil is warmer than 60F and the forecast is for warmer conditions. This occurs after most if not all haylage is harvested. Taking first cutting followed by sorghum is one way to increase the yield from a runout hayfield.
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May 2022 Season Compression
In the north-central and northeast half of the US, the season is shaping up more and more as one of the springs where we go from winter to summer in less than a week. Snow one day, short sleeve shirts two days later. The longer-term forecast just a week ago had this region as colder and wetter than normal. The forecast has now been changed to hot and dry. The supreme irony is that by the middle of May we will probably be at average growing degree days. This will mean that the manure that couldn’t get spread because it was too wet, the corn that couldn’t get planted because it was too cold and wet, and the winter forage and haylage that was growing very slowly, will all switch to “need to be done now!”