A National Forage Week is being officially recognized for the first time in 2015 from June 21 to 27. The initiative was spearheaded by the American Forage and Grassland Council (AFGC) and is designed to create a greater public awareness of the value and impact forage crops bring to U.S. agriculture.
Most eHay Weekly readers already know the importance and economic value forage crops bring, not only to agriculture, but also to the general public. Of course, there is the oh-so-important ability of ruminant livestock to convert forage crops to meat, milk, and fiber for human consumption and use; but really, that's just a start.
I have been fascinated by the viral media coverage and interest in cover crops during the past several years. Don't get me wrong, cover crops provide outstanding benefits from a soil conservation, soil quality, carbon sequestration, and agronomic perspective. They should be utilized more than they are and I'm glad their use is increasing. But . . . this just in . . . forage crops, pastured or machine harvested for ruminant livestock, have provided all of these same benefits for centuries with very little public knowledge or hype.
Agriculture and government have done mega amounts of good by emphasizing and sometimes requiring nutrient management plans on U.S. farms. Reasonable and economic-based regulation of nutrients being applied to our land base is a good thing and lends credibility to agriculture in the eyes of the general public. Though excessive application of nutrients to farm fields has been curbed in many parts of the U.S., we have quite frankly done a pretty lousy job of keeping soil and nutrients from actually leaving the field, especially in row crop regions.
Like cover crops, nutrient management plans have been run up the agriculture and government success story flagpoles on many occasions, and rightfully so. But, as I have told my row crop and soil enthusiast colleagues for years, forages have and will continue to do more good for ground and surface water quality than all the nutrient management plans combined.