Stunted, pale-green alfalfa stands are signaling the need for sulfur (S) in Wisconsin, but much of the western Corn Belt and Great Plains may also be deficient in that and other nutrients, according to university fertility experts and a report out of the International Plant Nutrient Institute (IPNI).
Adding sulfur to light-green, spindly alfalfa has increased yield by up to 1 ton per acre per cutting, according to Iowa State University studies. But growers need to first tissue-test and maybe even soil-test fields, warns University of Wisconsin soil scientist Carrie Laboski. Areas with samples at 0.25% S are low in the nutrient and those at less than 0.23% are deficient, she adds.
Laboski studied 39 plant samples from across her state. Almost 65% showed deficiencies in sulfur and many were also low in potassium (K). A national fertility study by the IPNI also shows a decline in S, K and phosphorus.
For more on nutrient deficiency, turn to our May issue of Hay & Forage Grower or go online for the story, In Need Of Nutrients. Or find the story in our magazine's digital version at hayandforage.com.
The same magazine issue explores the future of irrigated agriculture in Texas and Washington in the story, Water Worries, as well as a hay grower's experiences in growing organic, conventional and Roundup Ready hay, told in Co-Existence Can Work. As part of Hay & Forage Grower's 25th anniversary celebration, its editors asked controversial farmer Harlan Anderson for his opinion on what forages need to keep growing strong. His outspoken answers are in the article, Forages' Future.
Magazine readers' opinions on their planting and harvesting intentions were sought and published in another story, called Readers Optimistic About Hay Market. Nearly 60% said they're planting new hay or haylage stands this year.
A new column called Extension Expertise, written by Extension forage specialists from California, Georgia and Wisconsin, also debuts in this issue. This month Dan Undersander from the University of Wisconsin writes about weed control in established alfalfa.