Aug. 18, 2015 08:00 AM

Visits to California, Vermont and Wisconsin

by Dan Putnam
Extension Forage Agronomist
University of California-Davis

Weather in early August has cooled significantly from July conditions, much to the relief of farmers who have been trying to keep up with water demands in a drought. Wildfires in many portions of the state have caused significant solar blockage in some areas (particularly Intermountain and Sacramento Valley). Currently, more than 20 fires are raging in tinder-dry canyons, slopes and chaparral.

Unusual tropical-based storm events dumped rain on some areas of Southern California over the past two weeks. This was unexpected and caused localized flooding along with damage to crops. A bridge washed out in desert California, cutting off travel to Arizona for a time.

All forage acres (alfalfa, corn silage, miscellaneous hays) are down significantly from previous years as dairies struggle to keep feed costs in check amid low milk prices; many are utilizing greater (cheap) Midwestern grains and lowering alfalfa pounds fed in the ration. Low-quality hays continue to have depressed prices, while high-quality alfalfa hays are moving well with good prices — but availability is low.

Summer worm (alfalfa caterpillar, armyworm) pressure has not been too great in most areas. Significant acreage of alfalfa continues to be dried down (irrigations stopped) in July-August-September in the Central Valley due to the need to move water to orchards, which cannot sustain long droughts. Although alfalfa acreage is at the lowest level since the 1930s, most seed companies don’t expect much expansion this fall due to lack of confidence in water supplies and the relentless expansion of orchard crops, especially almonds, which are now exceeding 1 million acres. Almonds are now the largest acreage crop in the state (a position previously held by alfalfa).

by Heather Darby
Extension Agronomist
University of Vermont

It continues to be wet and people are having difficulty squeezing in third cut. The yields are reported to be high for those who have been able to harvest. Leafhopper damage was high this year on alfalfa crops and was especially noticeable on new forage plantings. Overall, new seeding establishments were poor due to heavy rain and high weed pressure. Corn silage crops are highly variable. Some early-planted fields are two to three weeks from harvest and other fields have just tasseled. Some visual nitrogen and potassium deficiency are being seen in maturing corn likely due to high rainfall leading to leaching of nutrients. So far, limited reports of fungal disease on corn.

by Dan Undersander
Extension Forage Agronomist
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Yields of alfalfa and grass have been excellent across the state. Harvested forage is generally higher in quality than last year. Unlike the eastern U.S., Wisconsin has had excellent three- to five-day periods without rain for haylage and haymaking. Pastures have also grown well and produced above average forage where fertilized with nitrogen and sulfur.

The corn for silage looks excellent in most parts of the state.

A few spots have been dry for the last two to three weeks, as they have missed the spotty rains. However, these are small areas. Droughty alfalfa, where the regrowth has been 10 inches or less, does not need to be harvested, even if the alfalfa flowers, as regrowth will be the same with or without harvesting; all can be harvested in the last cutting of the year.

Interest is turning to fall management of alfalfa (both fertilization and cutting management) for optimal winter survival.