By Adam Austing, UMN Extension Educator
Some rain rumbled through the region on the weekend of August 20. As has been the story for 2021, it was variable and left many of us still wanting more. Some fields have dried up and are now near or total losses, especially on unirrigated sand. Still, the crops in many areas are looking alright and are worth taking care of for the rest of the fall. As we wrap up August, there are a few things going on that are worth noting.
Corn silage harvest
Corn silage harvest slowly started in the middle of August. It might be a drawn out harvest this year. Really dry fields are already too far gone for making quality silage. In fields where things are a little greener, it might last into early September.
It’s important that farmers are paying attention to moisture and nitrate levels in their silage crops this year. Moisture levels are varying greatly from one part of the field to another. This can cause issues when all of the silage ends up in the same bunk or silo. An alternative option for feeding corn that has become too dry is to make baleage.
The other concern is nitrates. This has been a big topic of discussion for the last few weeks. Stressed corn can accumulate high nitrate levels, which in turn can harm cattle’s general and reproductive health. Nitrate levels in the plant can spike after rainfall, so it’s especially important to get your corn silage tested for nitrates this fall. These tests are fairly cheap. For more info on harvesting drought-stressed corn silage go to blog-crop-news.extension.umn.edu/2021/08/harvesting-drought-stressed-corn-for.html.
EPA cancels chlorpyrifos tolerances
The Environmental Protection Agency announced on August 18 that it is cancelling tolerances for chlorpyrifos residues in food and feed. Chlorpyrifos is a common active ingredient in many insecticides. Some of its most common uses are controlling aphids and spider mites in soybeans. Farmers that were planning to use chlorpyrifos to protect their 2022 crops will need to adjust their pest control strategies. For more information on this ruling and insecticide alternatives go to blog-crop-news.extension.umn.edu/2021/08/environmental-protection-agencys.html.
I keep hearing stories about people walking through their corn fields a half century ago to cut down all the cocklebur plants since good herbicide options weren’t always available or didn’t make economic sense. These stories are popping up because so are the cockleburs. It’s a weed that we usually have a pretty good handle on with today’s herbicide options, but this year’s weather is helping provide a competitive advantage to some weeds that can tolerate dry conditions. At this point, there isn’t much we can do about it this year except take note for next year. If any fields have really weedy patches that will yield poorly anyways, it may be worth mowing the patches to prevent seed production. You might have to move fast though; many weeds are already producing seed to give you a headache again next year.
Stay proactive about forages
For livestock producers, it’s important to be taking feed inventories and estimating if you have what you need to feed cattle into next summer. Make sure what you have on hand is being stored well, and watch the prices of local hay auctions and sales in case you end up having to purchase some forage to get you through.
Start thinking this fall about options to add forage. Fields that have small grains, corn silage, or dried-up crops might be good options for a winter rye crop. It could be harvested or grazed this fall. Otherwise, you can leave it in the ground over winter and harvest it next May or June. You can then follow that up next year with a late-planted soybean crop or another forage species. This is a pretty simple and common option for farmers, but might not be the best option in many cases. Get creative with your agronomist and nutritionist to make the best choices on your farm. This article goes through things all farmers should consider before planting any forages or cover crops during droughty times: blog-crop-news.extension.umn.edu/2021/08/forage-cover-crops-worth-it-in-drought.html