July 26, 2016 08:00 AM

Visits to Central California, Missouri, and Georgia

Nick Clark
Extension agronomy advisor, Hanford, Calif.
University of California-Davis

In general, growing conditions have been very favorable for forages in the San Joaquin Valley of California this past month. Temperatures have been flanking the 90s and 100s in about a 15-degree range with no precipitation, so precise irrigation timing continues to be paramount. This season has seen an accumulation of about 23 percent more growing degree days than this time last year, and a few growers have been betting on that bump with later plantings.

Some expected pest challenges that come with “extra heat” have arisen, such as flushes of yellow striped armyworm and spider mites, the latter especially aggravated with dust deposition from the dry farm roads. Fortunately, reports from local pest control advisors have confirmed that currently available pest management practices have been very effective at knocking these critters back, supporting the region’s expectations for high yields.

A small amount of silage corn is already being harvested, although a larger amount is drying down after the last irrigation in preparation for chopping. Still to this day, some corn is spiking up out of the ground, so the range of maturity between fields is astounding. Sorghum is heading and still growing beautifully. Most fields are growing vigorously, and I haven’t seen any indication of lodging in BMR types. However, as with all heat spells, some growers have had a less than easy time getting a late stand established as seedbed moisture in coarser soils is being rapidly depleted.

With no rain and no clouds to offer relief to anybody working in the fields, the alfalfa has enjoyed this opportunity to rocket back from cuttings after very quick cure times. Swathers, balers, stackers, and choppers can be seen everywhere on our roads these days, and many busy days are still ahead.

Craig Roberts
Forage extension specialist
University of Missouri – Columbia

After flirting with drought throughout June, Missouri pastures have received substantial, evenly distributed rains in July. These rain events have corresponded with night temperatures in the mid-70s, thereby providing favorable growing conditions for cool-season grasses. Today, in late July, cool-season grasses in Missouri remain green and growing. This contrasts with typical years in which the cool-season grasses would have already entered summer dormancy by now.

The favorable growing conditions in July have presented a good-news and bad-news scenario for Missouri cattlemen. The good news is that nearly all of Missouri pastures are cool-season grass; so there is plenty of grass. The bad news is that nearly all of it is common tall fescue infected with the common endophyte; so it is toxic. Missouri experienced a July similar to this 15 years ago. That summer, rate of gain for steers on toxic Kentucky 31 was only one-third the rate of gain for steers grazing a novel endophyte (nontoxic fescue). The drastic low rate of gain was caused by steady ingestion of toxins during the hottest months of the year. We expect to see the same thing this year.

Producers are encouraged to rotate their cattle to warm-season pastures if possible. If they cannot, they are encouraged to set aside some land for haying. Compared to pasture, hay contains half the concentrations of ergovaline and total ergot alkaloids. Also, this second-cutting hay would be vegetative and therefore higher in quality. Producers should also consider supplementing the cattle diet for cattle grazing toxic tall fescue.

Dennis Hancock
Forage extension specialist
University of Georgia – Athens

Hit or miss thundershowers are missing a lot of farms in Georgia. Pasture conditions are highly variable with roughly 40 percent being poor or extremely poor, though some 20 percent are considered excellent. Many cow-calf producers have been feeding hay for three to four weeks now, so hay supplies are tight across northern Georgia. Second cuttings from bermudagrass are nearly done, and most fields that have had rain are beginning to be cut for their third cutting.

Corn silage harvest is about 60 percent complete. In north Georgia, many producers who grew dryland corn have been cutting it for baleage to salvage some value. Nitrate levels in this material have hovered in the 4,000 to 9,000 ppm, so producers need to be very cautious when feeding this forage.

Bermudagrass stem maggot damage is now extensive across the southern one-half of the state. Preventative insecticide applications should be made seven to 10 days after cutting in these areas of the state. A second application 14 to 20 days after cutting may be necessary if the bermudagrass is growing slowly. Fall armyworm damage is also being reported across the southern two-thirds of Georgia. Using Spinosad to control stem maggot flies will have the added benefit of some armyworm control.