Sunday, May 26, 2013

Who Wants A Cold One?

Borrowing a phrase from the advertising campaign of a favourite beverage is a cheap stunt on my part, but it seemed to fit.  Adam Van Dinther posted this frosty picture of his windshield on Saturday morning.  More on the frost later in this post because there are more important things to talk about first.

The alfalfa crop takes centre stage this week.  I was out yesterday with my PEAQ stick evaluating feed quality.  A PEAQ stick is a measuring tool that takes the Predictive Equation for Alfalfa Quality developed by the University of Wisconsin right out to the field.
For my dairy farming friends like Adam, who want their first cut haylage to be 20% protein, 30% ADF and 40% NDF, this is the week when it will happen.  

Right now alfalfa is in the late vegetative to early bud stage of development.   By randomly picking out the most mature stems and holding them up to the PEAQ stick you get an estimate of the ADF level.

This first year field was still in the vegetative state and the PEAQ estimate was 28 ADF.

In this 3rd year field that was just entering the bud stage, the PEAQ estimate was 29 ADF.  No in field tool is perfect when it comes to measuring feed quality but the PEAQ stick provides a quick and simple way of confirming that the crop is close to the magic 20-30-40 figure for high producing dairy cows.

A second reason for checking alfalfa is because reports are filtering in about alfalfa weevils.  Adult weevils overwinter in the trash and leaf litter on the field.  Before they die the females lay eggs in the stem of the alfalfa plant.  Young weevils hatch and start chewing on the leaves as shown in this picture I took yesterday.
The larvae are light green or yellow with a white stripe and black head.  When fully grown they are only 5/16" long.
They will feed for 3 to 4 weeks and then pupate.  The adult does not cause trouble and there is usually only one generation per year.
Action is required if 40% of the leaves have injury or if you can find 2-3 active weevil per stem.  While it was easy to find feeding injury in all fields I walked through, the damage I witnessed yesterday was no where close to the action level.  Generally the best recommendation is to cut the crop.  Alfalfa fields that are being left until June will need to be scouted for the next two weeks to make sure the weevil numbers stay low.

Turning back to the cash crops, corn and soybean producers will be sick to their stomach this week.  A lot of emerged corn is going to look very rough for a few days.  Two frosty nights in a row lays a major beating on leaf tissue.  My standard recommendation is to go fishing for a week.  It may take that long for the field to look better.
This corn plant will not die.  It's growing point is well protected below the soil surface and new leaves will emerge.  The leaves that have been lost to the frost will have no negative effect on yield potential.  The worst thing to do is go look at it every day and worry. Depending on the temperature, it might be Wednesday or Thursday before you will see much recovery.  Do not spray any post emergent herbicides, especially hormone based herbicides for a few days because there is no point in adding more stress.
Very few soybeans have emerged yet, so they are fine.  If they are emerged the growing point is still protected by the cotyledons and no damage will occur.
Wheat heads are still protected in the stem, so no concern there either.
Unprotected strawberries in your garden will not be so lucky.
Regardless, the very best thing to do is sit back and reach for a cold one.  Or on second thought maybe a hot one would be better.

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