How did alfalfa fields fair this past winter? This is a complicated subject since several factors play into alfalfa winter survival. These factors include fall soil moisture conditions, 4-inch soil temperature, and other stresses like stand age, soil fertility, and fall stubble.
Integrated Crop Management News
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The rapid snowmelt in Spring 2019 has caused instances of stored grain being covered with floodwater. By current Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) policy, grain inundated by uncontrolled river or stream water is considered adulterated and must be destroyed. The situation in 2019 is one of river water flooding rather than of rain-driven pooled water in low ground, for which there are salvage options. As shown by the example of the inundated Omaha sewage treatment plant, river-based floodwaters can bring in many hazards and rapid spoilage.
Because of limited fall 2018 anhydrous ammonia fertilizer application, fertilizer infrastructure including transportation, distribution, and application may be stressed this spring. A review of application equipment considerations can help ensure that your nitrogen fertilizer is properly and safely applied. This article focuses on anhydrous ammonia equipment.
Flooded fields and wet soil conditions in the fall 2018 meant some soybean fields were not, or are not going to be harvested. Also, some fields occasionally experienced significant shattering or a hailstorm in the fall where soybean seed is knocked from the plants and thus not harvested. When the grain is not harvested, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) nutrients returned to the soil in the soybean grain can be accounted for when planning nutrient applications for the next crop. Other nutrients will also be returned, but most are not a fertilization need in Iowa soils.
With the short timeframe for fieldwork this spring prior to planting, early weed management may fall to the bottom of the priority list for many. For those who have persistent issues with winter annuals (field pennycress, horseweed/marestail) in no-till, an early burndown treatment may be worth the extra effort this spring. Winter annuals resume growth soon after the arrival of warm temperatures, so as soon as fields are fit the weeds will be susceptible to spray.
What happens when anhydrous ammonia is injected into soil?
It was a late harvest in fall 2018. Soils were wet and frozen when it was time to apply anhydrous ammonia. Those situations resulted in much less than normal anhydrous ammonia application last fall. Therefore, considerable anhydrous ammonia needs to be applied this spring. There is only so much capacity to switch from one nitrogen (N) fertilizer product to another. In Iowa, historically the two largest N fertilizers are anhydrous ammonia (largest) and urea-ammonium nitrate (UAN) solution, with granulated urea a distant third.
On-farm trials are an easy way for farmers to learn how practices, products and equipment will work in their cropping systems. The concept of on-farm trials has been around for decades, with farmers placing rows or strips of different practices within their fields for comparison. On-farm trials are easier to conduct now with assistance from formalized on-farm trial programs and the use of GPS and precision technologies.
The above-average snowfall and potential for significant rain events this spring could present challenges during the upcoming planting season. These conditions, on top of excessive soil moisture last fall that may have led to compaction and soil damage during and following harvest, have farmers concerned about completing spring tillage, fertilizer and planting operations in a timely manner.
Producers wanting to add to or improve the forage species in their existing pastures should typically consider using either the frost seeding method in February and early March, or interseeding later in the spring months. This has been an unusual end to the winter, so as soon as the snow melts, frost seeding can begin.