July 21, 2015 08:00 AM

Visits to Southern California, Vermont, Wisconsin

by Dan Putnam
Extension Forage Agronomist
University of California-Davis

With alfalfa acreage at the lowest level in 50 years, lack of water remains the key issue for alfalfa growers throughout the region. Thus, new plantings are down and existing alfalfa fields are being dried down in favor of moving whatever precious water remains to tomatoes or permanent plantings of almonds, walnuts or to urban use. This resilient crop, however, often produces in spite of the lack of moisture — one grower in Merced County had dried down all 2,000 acres of his alfalfa but still was able to produce three cuts by mid-July! High water tables supplied last December sustained his fields. Due to lack of surface waters, groundwater pumping has increased substantially in many areas, causing problems with subsidence. The supply of high-quality hay remains quite tight throughout the region, but the bottom has fallen out of the low-quality categories of hay — low price and too much supply. Dairy profitability remains problematic, with prices below cost of production. A series of freakish summer storms has been working their way through many parts of California in July, dumping substantial amounts of water in some areas, especially higher elevations, but also the Central Valley, mountain and desert production areas. While all welcome the wet weather, this is a very unusual weather pattern (we typically get zero from May through October in most areas), and in many cases has resulted in rained-on hay and delayed harvests in midsummer. Somebody must have prayed hard (and effectively) for rain!

by Heather Darby
Extension Agronomist
University of Vermont

It has been extremely wet in Vermont with some areas receiving over 18 inches of rain in the month of June. Corn has suffered, especially on clay soils. It has been difficult to apply fertilizer and some weed control has proven ineffective under such high precipitation. Shorter season corn on higher ground and in areas less affected by rain is beginning to tassel; it will likely be an early harvest season. An isolate armyworm invasion occurred in early July but just a few no-till/high-residue fields were impacted. Some northern corn leaf blight is being identified and applications of fungicide may be warranted, especially under such ideal weather conditions. Interseeding of cover crops into corn has started.

The harvest of perennial forage has been a challenge with all the rain. Some farmers are just finishing all of their first cut while beginning second. Other farmers are finished with second cut but finding it difficult to get on the fields to spread manure. Many farmers are changing to commercial fertilizer to reduce damage to the fields. Second-cut yields were much better than first.

by Dan Undersander
Extension Forage Agronomist
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Third cutting is well underway. Yields are good due to the rains that have generally been occurring across the state. Most haylage has been put up in good condition despite the rains; several two- to three-day dry periods allowed for this. Making dry hay has been difficult.

Alfalfa weevil was minor on first crop, but potato leafhopper has been widespread across the state causing the V-shaped yellowing on leaves and associated yield losses for third cutting. Operators are encouraged to scout and plan on spraying whenever leafhoppers reach threshold levels over the next month.

Corn for silage is progressing well and has been tasseling in some spots where early plantings occurred.