April's Ag Advice By April Borders Well, they say when it rains it pours and boy has it POURED lately. Somehow this feels like a repeat of last year but with a little worse twist to it. Not only do we have flooded fields but we have seen some hail damage in the county. Mother Nature does not always work with us. I know that some tough decisions are being made in regards to your crops and plantings.
One thing that I want to remind you of is to talk your decisions over with your crop insurance agent. Often times the only way to make the decision is to put a pencil and paper to the situation and do some calculations. These are not easy decisions to make but you need to be informed of all the options that you have available.
The Extension Service can provide you with planting and replanting guidelines to look at and crop option to consider but ultimately it is the bottom line of profitability that needs to be looked at. So if you have questions feel free to call me but also call your crop insurance agent. There are policy restrictions to be considered and the last thing that you want to do is think that you are making the right decision only to find out that you overlooked or didn't realize there were replanting restrictions and have now jeopardized your coverage.
There are some other issues. One problem we might encounter is fertility due to nitrogen leaching and denitrification. The heavy rains may have leached the nitrates from nitrogen fertilizer down where plants can't use it. Other times nitrogen is escaping into the atmosphere as nitrogen gas through a process called denitrification. This takes place when microbes in waterlogged soil get the oxygen they need to live by taking it from nitrate. This frees up nitrogen to escape as a gas. Denitrification occurs mainly in the top foot of soil.
Jim Gerwing, SDSU Extension Soil Fertility Specialist said, "If you are concerned about nitrogen losses, you simply need to do a soil sample down to 2 feet to see if there is adequate nitrate in the top 2 feet of soil. If nitrogen has washed out, maybe some re-application of nitrogen will be called for as a side-dress sort of application."
The next thing I would like to discuss is baling hay under wet conditions. This situation calls for careful management. Baling alfalfa should be done when moisture content is 18 percent. According to Peter Jeranyama, SDSU Extension Forage Specialist, "The challenge is to dry down hay to 18 percent moisture. Drying down is fast between 80 to 28 percent, and much slower between 28 and 18 percent. Producers could help increase dry down rate by adjusting shields on a mower conditioner to lay thin layers of swath."
There are also drying agents that can be used as an alternative approach. Drying agents such as potassium carbonate, an alkaline salt, bacterial silage inoculant or buffered propionic acid have all been used. All of these strategies work well when hay is harvested at the optimum stage of development and would obtain premium market value.
Another problem producers are dealing with is the fact that some hay that was baled wet is now beginning to heat up. Not only does hay lose its quality as it grows hot but it also poses a danger of spontaneous combustion. "A rule of thumb is to check baled hay four or five days after baling for its initial temperature rise level," said Jeranyama.
The last thing that I want to touch on is monitoring your fields. Due to the heavy rain we will have soil crusting and it will be difficult for seedlings to emerge. Also as the water subsides we need to watch for seedling blight, crown rots, crazy top, and other diseases. Depending on the stage of growth, flooded conditions can retard root development which in turn increases the potential for problems with root feeding insects, nutrient uptake, and water uptake during drier conditions.
If you need any information on replant decisions, field assessments or disease problems, give the Extension Office a call at 677-7111 and I will be glad to visit with you or go on a site visit to assist you in making your cropping decisions.