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Thursday, May 5, 2016

What type of forage to grow

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In the last few years, many farmers have been impacted by less than ideal forage production conditions.

Therefore, some might be thinking that it is time to renovate their hay fields and pastures.

The next two columns will provide some advice to those who are interested in renovating their fields in the coming months.

Ideally, one of the first things you should do when deciding to renovate your field is to decide what you want to plant in it next year and make plans to purchase the seed.

When deciding what to plant, you should decide if you want a pure stand of one forage variety or a mix.

One of the advantages of a pure stand (either grass or legume) is the ease of management.

You do not have to worry about the species competing with each other or about ensuring you have a proper amount of each variety in the mixture.

Additionally, you tend to have an easier time finding herbicides that work for pure stands over a grass-legume mix.

Pure stands of legumes also tend to have higher forage quality.

A mix stand of grass and legumes will help eliminate the need of nitrogen to be added to the field as when compared to a pure stand of grass.

This would be because the legumes would be producing the nitrogen that is needed.

However, the legumes will not survive in the mix stand as long as the grass, thus, you will need to renovate the field earlier by adding legumes back into the mix.

Alfalfa is one legume species you do have to worry about "heaving."

Heaving is the process where legumes are raised from the soil surface by the freezing and thawing of the soil, resulting in plant damage.

If you would plant a mix stand, the grasses would help prevent the heaving from occurring.

Likewise, the grasses will have a denser root system than the legumes and will help control erosion.

Therefore, having a mix stand does have advantages over a pure stand of legumes in general.

Additionally, research has indicated that grass-legume mixtures can improve animal gain and cattle breeding performance over a pure stand of grass.

Regardless of which type of stand you decide to utilize, you should be aware of some of the various types of forages produced in your area.

In the way of grasses, we have farmers producing tall fescure, orchardgrass, timothy and ryegrass.

All of which can be planted in somewhat poorly drained soil.

Tall fescue and timothy should be in soil that has a pH of 5.4 to 6.2, orchardgrass in a soil with a pH of 5.5 to 8.2 and ryegrass in soil with a pH of 5.6 to 6.2

All of these are perennial plants, assuming you avoid the annual ryegrass that can be purchased.

Annual ryegrass should be avoided since it will not return year after year.

Each of these grass species can be planted from March 1 - May 1 in Indiana.

In the way of legumes, we have farmers producing white clover, birdsfoot trefoil, red clover and alfalfa.

White clover can be planted in poorly drained soil while birdsfoot trefoil and red clover should be in somewhat poorly drained and alfalfa in well-drained soil.

The pH requirements include: White clover 6.0 to 6.5, birdsfoot trefoil 6.0 to 6.8, red clover 6.2 to 6.8 and alfalfa 6.6 to 7.2.

Each of these are perennials.

However, you do have to worry about the alfalfa not withstanding our winters.

Alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil can be planted from March 1 - May 1, while red and white clover can be planted from Jan. 1 - May 1 in Indiana.

As always, if you have any questions or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture, or natural resource topic, then please contact your local Purdue Extension office at 448-9041 in Clay County or 812-829-5020 in Owen County, or reach me directly at smith535@purdue.edu.

Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

* Feb. 25 -- Putnam County Master Gardener Advanced Training, Greencastle, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 812-691-1930 to RSVP and determine cost,

* Feb. 27 -- Indiana Livestock, Forage and Grain Forum, Indianapolis,

* Feb. 28 -- Anhydrous Ammonia Safety Training Program, Clay County 4-H Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall, 7 p.m. RSVP is possible to 448-9041,

* Feb. 28 -- Indiana Regional Dairy Meeting, Rockville, 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Price varies. RSVP to 317-695-8228, and

* Feb. 29-March 1 -- 2012 Midwest Women in Agriculture Conference, Shipshewana, Ind. Cost is $90. Call 574-372-2340 to register.