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Alfalfa Management Tips

June 8, 2011

Alfalfa harvesting is well underway and many producers are filling silos, bunkers, and ag bags. Here are some tips to get the most out of your alfalfa.

1. Alfalfa requires adequate amounts of phosphorus(P), potassium(K), and boron(B) to be productive. B is essential for plant growth and disease prevention. P and K are vital for proper photosynthesis, water use efficiency, and growth. P is also essential for protein production. In Pennsylvania, recommendations for P are 15lbs/ton alfalfa produced, for K are 60lbs/ton alfalfa produced, and for B are 2lbs/acre/year.

2. Alfalfa that is going to be used as silage should be cut during the early bloom stage. This is when 25% of stems have at least one visible flower.

3. When packing a bunker full of silage, research has shown that it will take one half hour for a 13,000lbs tractor to pack 7 tons of silage. Make sure you have more than enough packing tractors and weight for the amount of silage you are bring in. A silage bunker can never be overpacked.

4. Leaf hopper can cause serious crop damage. Leaf hopper damage is described as hopperburn. Basically the leaf hopper feeds on the alfalfa plant and its saliva is toxic, this causes the plant to “burn”. It is always a good idea to scout for leaf hopper. Check out this fact sheet for more information on how to scout for leafhopper:

New Job!

June 8, 2011

On June 1, I started a new job with the Bedford Farm Bureau Co-op Association. I am working as the Agronomy Marketing and Sales Specialist. I am very excited about this job. So far everyone has been wonderful and I am learning a lot. I am looking forward to getting out on farms and helping producers maximize their agronomy systems.


May 11, 2011

Things have changed a lot in the past month. About three months ago I decided it was time to quit my job and move back home. Now I want to clear one thing up, I LOVED LOVED LOVED my job with Penn State Cooperative Extension, but I absolutely hated living two hours from home. I missed being home and I missed my family and the farm. April 15 was my last day with Extension. I have been living at home since then. I love all the time I get to spend with my family, especially my 5 month old niece. Four calves have been born at the farm in the past two weeks. They are so cute running and jumping around the pasture. Just yesterday I picked my five year old cousin Kaden up from pre-school. He and I spent the afternoon hanging out. For a good part of the afternoon we were outside taking about plants and bugs. Then we laid under a tree and told “campfire” stories. I had such a blast!!

As for my professional life, I am still working on my Masters of Science in Agronomy from Iowa State. A part time program takes forever. But I am glad it is an online program with lots of flexibility. I just accepted a job offer from a local company. Stay tuned for a future blog post about that! Thanks for sticking with me through everything!!!

“Hay, What is Right for Your Horse?”

April 26, 2011

Choosing the right hay for any animal can be a challenge. Most importantly, you need to understand the nutritional needs of your animal and choose a hay that will meet those needs. If your horse is a barren mare, retired work horse, or a pleasure type riding horse, it has low nutrient requirements. If your horse is a growing horse, lactating mare, work horse, or a performance horse, it has high nutrient needs. Horses with low nutrient requirements should be fed late to mid-maturity alfalfa or mid-maturity grass hays. These hays have less protein, but are still palatable. Also, these hays will satisfy the horse’s appetite without making the horse over weight. High nutrient requirement horses do best when fed early-maturity alfalfa or early-maturity grass hay. These hays have higher protein levels and are very palatable. These hays will satisfy high nutrient requirement horses’ appetites, however these horses should probably also be given a grain supplement. All horses should be provided with a mineral mix to meet all their vitamin and mineral needs.

Once you have determined what hay is appropriate for your horse, you need to make sure you can pick, for lack of a better word, a clean hay. When evaluating a hay for cleanness, first you need to determine if the hay is grass or legume. Legume hays primarily consist of alfalfa and/or clovers. All legumes are considered broadleaf plants. These hays have lots of small leaves, while grass hays have long blade like leaves. After you have determined the type of hay you are looking at you need to inspect the hay for the following: weeds, bugs, and mold/dust. Weeds in legume hays are harder to see than weeds in grass hay. The major bug of concern in hay is the blister beetle. This insect contains a toxin that irritates digestive and urinary tracts. Blister beetles are tiny and difficult to see. Typically blister beetles are found in hay grown in dry, arid regions and in years following heavy grasshopper infestations. Mold and dust can be found in any hay that was not properly cured. Moldy and dusty hay will cause lung problems in horses. In addition mold can cause other detrimental effects on a horse. When inspecting a hay for mold or dust, you want to pull out a handful of the hay, give it a sniffing and shake it out. If the hay smells musty, avoid feeding it to your horse. When you shake the hay, if excess dust comes off or if there is a whiteish powder on the leaves, again avoid feeding to your horse. If you are still unsure if you are feeding the right hay to your horse, contact your local Equine Extension Educator or talk with your veterinarian.

Understanding Corn Traits

March 24, 2011

One year ago I wrote a blog post titled “Understanding ‘Stacked’ Corn”. Since then the corn trait market has expanded and is now even more confusing. In the beginning, 1996, there was only Bt corn. The bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, is inserted into corn plant tissue. When a insect eats the corn plant tissue, the Bt protein binds to the intestinal wall and causes holes to form. These holes spill gut fluid into the insects abdomen cavity, killing the insect. Since 1996, the corn trait market has expanded to include above-ground and below-ground insect protection and herbicide resistance. Here is a brief overview of each trait which is currently on the market.

1. RoundUp Ready(RR) or Glyphosate Tolerant(GT) – crops with this trait are able to withstand a herbicide application of glyphosate. The RoundUp Ready trait was developed by Monsanto.

2. Liberty Link (LL) – crops with this trait are able to withstand a herbicide application of glufosinate. Glufosinate is sold by Bayer CropScience as Ignite. The Liberty Link trait was developed by Bayer CropScience.

3. Herculex I – This trait was developed by Dow AgroScience and protects against most corn borers, fall armyworm, plus it suppresses corn earworm. This trait also includes Liberty Link and the option to add on RoundUp-Ready genetics. Refuge acre requirements are 20% of acres in corn regions and 50% of acres in cotton regions.

4. Herculex RW – This traits provides protection against western, northern, and Mexican Corn Root Worm and is a Dow AgroScience trait. Refuge acre requirements are 20% of acres in all regions.

5. Herculex XTRA – Combines the genetics of Herculex I and Herculex RW to provide both corn borer and corn rootworm control. This trait also suppresses corn earworm and was developed by Dow Agroscience. Refuge acre requirements are 20% of acres in corn regions and 50% of acres in cotton regions.

Read more…

When I grow up

March 21, 2011

I have always been envious of my older sister. As long as I can remember she wanted to be a teacher. She went to college for elementary education. When she graduated she got a job as a fourth grade teacher, that was five years ago. She is still teaching fourth grade and will probably teach fourth grade at the same school until she retires. I, on the other hand, am not as lucky. Throughout high school, I changed my career choice weekly. I wanted to be a doctor, painter, chef, humanitarian, peace corp worker, vet, Sergeant in the army, and many many other things. My parents would just laugh because they knew next week I would come up with some other career idea. The summer before my senior year of high school, I spent five weeks at Penn State for the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Agricultural Sciences. This experience along with 4-H and growing up on a farm, influenced me to pursue a degree in agriculture. I went to Penn State and majored in Agriculture Science with minors in agronomy and animal science. I spent a year working in soil conservation and almost two years working for Extension as an Agronomy Educator. I’ve decided to move back home to the family farm. So now I am looking for a job. At 2 different interviews in the past week I have been asked “What do you want to do?” My response has been “I have no idea what I want to do when I ‘grow-up’.”I have many skills and interests and it is really hard for me to pick one career that I want to do. Am I alone in this feeling? Are there others out there who feel the same as me? Often I feel negatively judged when I say “I have no idea”. I feel that people think of me as immature and misguided. How do you decided what you want to do when you grow up? Will I ever know the answer to this question?

All these Acronyms Can Be Confusing

January 19, 2011

Recently there has been a lot of talk about EPA, the Chesapeake Bay, the TMDL, WIP’s, NMP, etc. How does one really know what is going on? All these terms and acronyms can be confusing. So I am going to try and make things a little less confusing.

EPA – Environmental Protection Agency is a federal agency whose mission is to protect human health and the environment.

USDA – United States Department of Agriculture provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management.

NRCS – Natural Resource Conservation Service is a federal agency that works with landowners through conservation planning and assistance designed to benefit the soil, water, air, plants, and animals that results in productive lands and healthy ecosystems.

USGS – United States Geological Survey is the Nation’s largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific understanding about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems.

DEP – Department of Environmental Protection is a PA state agency whose mission is to protect Pennsylvania’s air, land and water from pollution and to provide for the health and safety of its citizens through a cleaner environment.

PDA – Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture encourages, protects and promotes agriculture and related industries throughout the commonwealth while providing consumer protection through inspection services that impact the health and financial security of Pennsylvania’s citizens.

SCC – State Conservation Commission of PA has a primary mission to ensure the wise use of Pennsylvania’s natural resources and to protect and restore the natural environment through the conservation of its soil water and related resources.

NMP – Nutrient Management Plan is a plan developed following the guidelines of Act 38

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