First-cutting Indiana forage yields are down by 25% or more, growers told Keith Johnson, Purdue Extension forage specialist, last week.
Forages affected by April hard freezes have struggled to yield amid the unrelenting hot, dry May and June weather, Johnson says. “So we’re starting out in a deficit in terms of total-season hay production possibilities. Then we couple that with the dry weather and the next harvest doesn’t look to be super-high-yielding, either.”
If harvested prematurely, the second and subsequent cuttings could lack carbohydrate reserves and vigor. So wait until just after late bud or as alfalfa flowers.
Johnson also recommends checking soils for possible nutrient deficiencies. Don’t apply nitrogen in grass-dominated hayfields and pastures until there is enough moisture, he warns. “I think we have to recognize, at this point, moisture is the yield-limiting need.”
The lack of moisture also exaggerates potato leafhopper damage. Growers should sweep net for the pest and apply insecticide when the average number of leafhoppers per single sweep is 0.1 per inch of alfalfa height.