Who doesn’t like a good debate?

Perhaps one of the greatest learning and decision-making tools a person can employ is to take an opposite view, whether you believe it or not, and engage in debate. Healthy debate and vetting is generally a good thing. It’s often how we form opinions, gauge the utility of a thought or practice, and many times discover what is “right.” Debates can also be nasty and hurtful.

In our business, that of producing and utilizing forage crops, new ideas and products often fuel and frame debate topics. Lately, corn silage processing has found itself front and center on the A-list as a debate talking point. It’s not been so much a question of whether to process, but more on the uniqueness of the shredlage processor. Behind the scenes, the shredding processor concept has been wrought with an intellectual property lawsuit and a bit of the aforementioned nastiness.

Legal maneuvering aside, the more interesting debate items can be found out in the field. Is the shredlage processor better or isn’t it? Can the shredding effects on the silage be duplicated with a properly set processor not found in a Claas forage harvester? There is not an extensive body of research to definitively answer these questions. There are, however, some passionate opinions on the topic.

Those university specialists who have written on both sides of the issue have gotten beat up by the opposition. The same wrath has been poured on some media outlets that have printed the specialists’ releases and comments. I’m sure a similar fate has befallen others in the industry, consultants or forage harvesters, who have also been publicly vocal. That’s really too bad because open discussion is all a part of the process. It’s also understandable that when money, and lots of it, is on the line, passions run high. Even so, it’s possible to have constructive debate without being nasty.

What is known for sure is that time usually answers all questions. There will be more research, more experience, more engineering, and more emphasis on achieving a 70-plus kernel processing score (KPS) regardless of make and model. In the interim, there’s no doubt that the debate will rage on.

Cover crop confusion

Recently, I’ve been engulfed in several discussions . . . or debates if you prefer . . . regarding the core definition of a cover crop. I had always learned that cover crops, by definition, were planted for the sole purpose of “covering” soil that would otherwise be exposed to the elements. They then died over winter, were tilled into the soil, or were chemically killed. Benefits to the soil came with the deal, as has been well documented. Still, at the core, was the primary function of soil conservation.

As the cover crop craze has evolved, it’s common to read about “grazing” or “harvesting” cover crops. Whoa . . . to my way of thinking and understanding we now no longer have a cover crop, but rather a traditional forage crop. Apparently, those of us who hang our hat on the forage banner have done a poor job communicating the value that forages have for the soil and environment. Rarely is this enunciated, yet utter the words “cover crops” and people ooze thoughts of soil quality and conservation. They also have an easier time getting research dollars.

Forage crops have, and have always had, all the soil enhancing benefits recently bestowed on cover crops. Probably more. That story needs to be told. In addition, they help produce a lot of milk and meat. It’s unfathomable to me why the forage industry is often treated as the ugly stepchild when it comes to research, governmental, and university support. To be sure, the rising use of cover crops is an agricultural success story. But in my book, when they are utilized as a livestock feed, they then belong on the forage crop side of the ledger.

Want to debate? I’m in the phone book.

This article appeared in the August/September 2016 issue of Hay & Forage Grower on page 4.

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