Posts filed under ‘hay’

Graphical Display of Major US Crops, 2009

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Major US Crops

October 5, 2009 at 1:00 pm 4 comments

Potato Leafhopper Management in Alfalfa

Purdue University Extension Entomologists are reporting that populations of potato leafhopper in alfalfa are booming in Indiana. There have been observations of high numbers of leafhoppers coming to lights at night. They attribute this explosion in potato leafhopper population to recent hot temperatures.

I expect that we may also experience high numbers of potato leafhoppers.  Soon after cutting alfalfa, producers need to begin scouting for potato leafhopper. Purdue Entomologists Christian Krupke and John Obermeyer warn that once yellowing is seen on alfalfa, the damage is already done and it is likely too late for an insecticide treatment. (Read full story in Purdue Pest and Crop Newsletter:

To determine potato leafhopper numbers, take at least five sets of 20 sweeps with an insect sweep net, each set from a different area of the field. Open the net and count the number of potato leafhoppers, both adults and nymphs. After taking each set of sweeps, measure the height of a few stems in each area. After all sweeps and height measurements have been taken, determine the number of potato leafhoppers per sweep and the average stem height for the field. See the Purdue table for treatment guidelines:

Full podcast: 

July 1, 2009 at 8:00 am

Potato Leafhopper in Alfalfa

In both the Ohio State University Extension C.O.R.N. newsletter and the Purdue Pest & Crop newsletter mentions were made of potato leafhopper being a problem in alfalfa. In fact Christian Krupke, John Obermeyer, and Larry Bledsoe of Purdue are reporting large catches of potato leafhopper in their sweeps.  They predict that populations of potato leafhopper will increase as air temperatures rise. From the Purdue newsletter:

Potato leafhoppers are small, wedge-shaped, yellowish-green insects that remove plant sap with their piercing-sucking mouthparts. Leafhopper feeding will often cause the characteristic wedge-shaped yellow area at the leaf tip, which is referred to as “hopper burn.” Widespread feeding damage can cause a field to appear yellow throughout – if you see this visual evidence, the damage is already done and treatment will not help this cutting. Leafhopper damage reduces yield and forage quality through a loss of protein. If left uncontrolled for several cuttings, potato leafhoppers can also significantly reduce stands.

From the OSU Extension C.O.R.N. newsletter:

Sampling is done using a sweep net and taking 10 samples throughout the field. Each sample should consist of 10 sweeps with the net. Count all potato leafhopper adults and nymphs, though over the coming weeks, mostly adults will be seen. When the average number of leafhoppers in a single sample (10 sweeps) is equal to or greater than the average height of the alfalfa stand, insecticide treatment is warranted for varieties not resistant to the potato leafhopper.

Full podcast here:

June 3, 2009 at 7:30 am

Revitalizing Winter Damaged Alfalfa Stands

This past winter was tough on local alfalfa stands.  Usually in late-March and early-April I get a few questions about ‘thickening’ up alfalfa stands by interseeding alfalfa in an existing stand.  This is an option only if the alfalfa stand is a new stand; that is, if the alfalfa was seeded last summer. Otherwise, in mature alfalfa stands (2 years old or older), interseeding alfalfa to thicken up the stand generally does not work. New alfalfa seedlings may emerge and look good early on, but they often die out over the summer due to competition, diseases, and autotoxicity present in the existing alfalfa stand.  The OSU Forages Team ( offers growers some excellent advice on renovating your winter-damaged alfalfa stand:

To extend the life of winter damaged alfalfa stands beyond this year, consider interseeding red clover or a grass such as ryegrass or orchardgrass. The yield benefit from perennial species may not be great until the second year, because they require some time to establish. Perennial ryegrass would likely provide an earlier yield boost because of its rapid establishment. Perennial ryegrass and red clover are slower to dry, so curing times will be lengthened compared with orchardgrass-alfalfa mixtures.

You can also consider interseeding your winter-damaged alfalfa stand with oat, beardless barley, annual ryegrass, or even wheat.  These options (especially the wheat in our area) are quick to establish and will compete well in a thin alfalfa stand. The drawback is that you may have forgo hay and put up your stand has silage or balage.  The following are excellent sources of information on annual forages and managing alfalfa where winter injury is an issue:

The Ohio Agronomy Guide, Chapter 7 (section on Annual Forages)

Articles on Univ. of Wisconsin Website:

Full podcast available here:

April 1, 2009 at 7:30 am 2 comments

Hay Supply and Prices

Short supplies of hay last year and increasing cost of production this year has put pressure on hay markets. Finding reasonably priced hay (it’s up to you to define ‘reasonably’) has been challenging. Gary Wilson, OSU Extension Hancock County, writes in his recent newsletter:

Establishing a price for hay is difficult. A national market price structure for hay does not exist, so effective marketing is very important in getting a good price. Most cash hay producers rely on a combination of experience, assessing the demand, and knowing what others are asking as guidelines in establishing an asking price for hay. Needless to say, hay prices should take into account all costs associated with production, storage, advertising, and hauling the product; therefore, record keeping is very important. Price the product competitively and realistically, the availability and cost of other feedstuffs may affect the price. Some markets provide a greater premium than others for high-quality hay. Know what the requirements are to achieve those premiums and what forage tests are necessary to document the hay quality.

There are two sites that I use as a barometer for hay prices: and [2nd link removed by author 6/23/09 due to spam]. If you have different or better sites, please let me know by posting a comment on this blog or emailing me at

July 14, 2008 at 7:30 am

Determining Hay Costs

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator Athens County wrote an excellent article on determining the cost of hay. Rising input costs have brought about this same question in my area. I have fielded questions regarding how to determine hay costs. In some cases, determining the cost of hay appears to be more of an art than science. In this podcast based on Rory’s work, I put the science back into the decision making process. Listen to my excerpt of the article below. The full article is available here.

July 7, 2008 at 10:38 am

Horse Feed, Hay Prices Up — It’s Tough to be a Horse Owner

NOTE: No podcast today. Just a good old-fashioned article.

Feed prices for horses are following a sharp trend upwards. Skyrocketing costs of corn, soybeans and wheat have placed tremendous pressure on hay; couple that with the fact that getting hay out of the field in the Midwest has been an overwhelming challenge this year. Owning, more importantly, feeding a horse has become a financial burden.

I read an excellent article from a colleague in Minnesota, Krishona Martinson. In her article, Krishona discusses some opportunities to help relieve expenses associated with horse feed costs. I have posted her article here in its entirety.

USDA has released several crop reports that indicate the number of hay acres will be down in 2008. It also reports that the existing hay supply is lower than in previous years. This information, combined with higher input costs (fuel, fertilizer, land rent) and higher grain prices (corn, soybean, wheat), will likely lead to increased hay prices.

Through the fall of 2007 to the spring of 2008, the Sauk Center Quality Tested Hay Auction recorded record hay prices. Average hay prices were $100/ton higher in 2007-2008 than they averaged the previous five years.

To prepare for higher prices, horse owners should:

1. Remember that quality forage should be the backbone of your horse’s diet (forage should be a minimum of two-thirds of their nutritional needs).

2. Have a good working relationship with a hay supplier to ensure a consistent and reliable source of hay.

3. Consider adding hay storage space to reduce the effects of price and seasonal fluctuations (i.e. hay is sometimes more expensive in the winter vs. the summer).

4. Buy hay early. Do not wait until late summer or fall to buy hay.

5. Plan in advance. Budget for the price increase and re-evaluate how many horses you can afford to feed.

6. Finally, try to keep your hay type (i.e., grass or alfalfa) consistent. Constantly changing hay types can lead to horse health problems, specifically colic.

— Krishona Martinson, Extension Educator, University of Minnesota Extension Service

I concur with everything Dr. Martinson has written. One additional comment I will make is that now is a good time to negotiate your stall rental fee if your horses are not kept on your property.

July 2, 2008 at 2:57 pm


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