Do you know what crown vetch looks like? Even if you could identify the plant, do you know what the seed looks like? Are you sure? Say you don't need to know? Don't be so sure. You may need to be able to identify it and separate it from a weed which you're trying to identify. Or you may find it where you don't want it and need to know its characteristics.
If you're a forage producer, you're in luck. After a long lapse, the Purdue Crop Diagnostic Training and Research Center has released the Forage Field Guide, Second Edition. It is in the same pocket-size format as the popular Corn & Soybean Field Guide, and contains over 300 pages. It's also in color, and contains great pictures for identification of key forages grown in Indiana.
Maybe you're moving into paddock grazing and want to introduce a legume into your mixture. This guide will not only provide advice, but will help you identify the species from one another that might be part of the forage mix. If you're into pasture walks held frequently among dairymen and beef cattle producers utilizing forages for grazing, one of these books in everyone's shirt pocket ought to be mandatory equipment for participating in the event.
Suppose you want to establish Big Bluestem, a warm-season grass, on some wildlife ground you've entered into the WRP through your FSA office. On page 53 you'll find a picture of the mature grass, with a picture of the seed on page 154. You'll also learn that there are 145,300 seeds per pound! Compare that to approximately 3,000 soybean seeds per pound. You even get information on seeding dates, and a recommendation on seeding rate for this grass.
What if you have cattle on a new pasture and by night, they're exhibiting unusual symptoms. Page 79 describes in detail the symptoms for sweetclover poisoning. There are also descriptions for reactions to other forages which can be poisonous to certain species of animals.
The book is easy to obtain. Check to see if your local Extension office has any copies for sale. If not, then visit The Education Store on the Web for information on purchasing the guide. Find the store at: www.the-educaitonstore.com.
You can also learn more about the Guide and the Diagnostic Training Center at: www.agry.purdue.edu/dtc. The Diagnostic Training Center often offers at least one day-long training session on forages and legumes each year.