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Serving: IN

Fall Strategies Depend Upon One Variable- Moisture

Fall Strategies Depend Upon One Variable- Moisture
Only areas that get rain can implement emergency forage, cover crop plans.

It doesn't matter if the meeting is on a cattle farm bordering the Ohio River or at a fairgrounds in central Indiana. Agronomists, consultants, government specialists and Extension educators are all doing their best to help livestock farmers how to come up with some fall pasture or alternative forage. They're also laying out ways crop farmers could capture nutrients left behind by "the crop that wasn't." I've listened to several of these talks, written about the strategies, and will continue to write about them.

But there's just one important yet often unmentioned caveat. When it appears everyone is done asking questions, I stick up my hand. What happens if it doesn't rain this fall either?

Cover crop dilemma- Planting cover crops like Austrian pea may help capture unused nutrients, but only if it rains enough to germinate the cover crop seed.

The answer is always the same- these strategies won't work. Without rain or enough moisture to germinate cover crops or fall forages, seed will just lay there and be another expensive input that doesn't deliver a return.

The assumption is that sooner or later it will rain--and it has in some places. But Ken Scheeringa with the Indiana State Climate Office issued a statement last week that says this general pattern could persist through October. That would seem to indicate some areas may not see rain, or very little of it. If that's the case, and you live there, you may need to rethink fall seeding.

At least one agronomist is already worrying about whether or not there will be enough moisture to entice farmers to plant wheat in her area, which is usually big on double-cropping. Speaking of double-cropping, many of the acres that were planted are still straw brown. That's because the beans are lying in dry dirt. The sprinkles or tiny showers haven't been enough to germinate them and get them out of the ground.

It's good to have plans and strategies. But you'll need to be a realistic when it's time to implement them. If you still don't have moisture, you may have to think long and hard before investing in cover crop or forage seed that may lie in the ground as well.

If you do try to seed, best bet is something like cereal rye, which can be planted alter than most cover crops and still have enough growth to survive the winter, provides it rains eventually, and still produce decent growth next spring.

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