Field Crops Notes (April 2012)
Take Steps in Case Weather Won't Cooperate During Hay Drying
How can you get hay dry between rains? This is indeed a challenge but there are some proven techniques to speed drying and help avoid rain.
Consider making silage or haylage instead of dry hay, whether it is stored in silos or bagged silage or as wrapped bales.
Faster drying of cut forage begins with using a well-adjusted mower-conditioner to cause crimping/cracking of the stem or abrasion to the stems.
At least 90% of the stems should be cracked or crimped with roller conditioners or show some mechanical abrasion when using impeller conditioners.
Exposure to the sun is the single most important weather factor to speed drying. So the trick is to make the sun shine on as much of the cut forage as possible.
This can be done by making the windrows as wide as possible, especially this time of year when our dry weather windows are pretty short. Wide windrows provide for maximum forage surface area to be exposed to the sunlight.
Think wide, not piles
I once heard someone say that you can’t dry your laundry in a pile so why can you expect to dry hay that way? It is best if the swath width is about 70% of the actual cut area.
The mowers on the market vary in how wide a windrow they can make but even those that make narrow windrows have been modified to spread the windrow wider.
Recent research studies and experience have shown that drying forage in wide swaths can significantly speed up drying. Faster drying in wide swaths results in less chance of rain damage and it produces higher quality forage.
Studies reported by the University of Wisconsin showed that wide swaths (72% of the cut width) result in lower NDF and higher energy in the stored forage.
Sometimes the rain just comes quicker than we have time for making dry hay. As mentioned above, making haylage helps with this problem but another option is to use a preservative.
The most common and effective preservatives are based on proprionic acid. This acid can be caustic to equipment, but many buffered propionic preservatives are available on the market that reduce this problem.
The preservatives inhibit mold growth and so allow safe baling at moisture contents a little higher than the normal range for dry hay.
Carefully follow the manufacturer directions and application rates when using preservatives.
Watch wet bales
If you do happen to bale hay at higher moisture contents than desired, keep a close watch on it for two to three weeks.
Mark Sulc, Ohio State University
(Pennsylvania Forage and Grassland News)
Small-Square Baler Maintenance
Purdue and former Penn State Ag Engineer Dennis Buckmaster provides the following tips for getting your baler ready. Most farmers do the obvious maintenance (greasing zerks, lubing chains, and keeping it clean) but there are other things you could do now to make your summer baling season go much smoother. Start by reviewing the operator’s manual because some items should be checked on a daily basis and others may need adjusting once per cutting or only once per season.
Checking the twine tension
To produce a perfect bale of hay and have the knotter work well, the twine tension should be monitored closely. Check the slip plates (where the twine leaves the twine box) and porcelain guides for wear. The slip plates should provide smooth resistance to twine movement and the guides should have no resistance.
Check the knotter
To check the knotter, first disengage all power sources, then slowly turn the flywheel by hand to watch the knotter function. “Be careful how you check twine knife and do not stick your finger in there because it’s supported to be sharp,” Buckmaster says. But check it to make sure that it is indeed sharp because a dull knife won’t cut and it will affect the knotter performance.”
Checking and adjusting the bale tension
“The method for adjusting bale tension, whether it’s a manual crank or a hydraulic cylinder, at least ought to be inspected and make sure that it’s in good maintenance,” Buckmaster says. “If it is the hand crank, you need to make sure the threads are well lubricated and easy to turn. Rusty or dirty threads makes changing the bale tension a real chore.” He suggests dabbing a bit of oil or light diesel fuel on those threads to keep them in good working order.
Checking the bale thrower
If the baler has a thrower, make sure the belts on the thrower aren’t extremely worn. A smooth belt just doesn’t grab a bale as well as a new one. Like any belt, the tension needs to be just right. It it’s too tight, it will wear faster and if it’s too loose, the belt will slip.
Source: Living the Country Life
Pennsylvania Forage and Grassland News, Spring 2012
Determine Small Grain Growth Stage Before Applying Herbicides
As warm weather continues to embrace our area, small grain growth is advancing more rapidly than it typically does this time of year. Before applying herbicides, make sure to determine the correct growth stage of the crop. We are getting reports from southeast Pennsylvania that some barley is already well into the jointing stage and wheat will not be far behind. This means that products such as Harmony (Extra), 2,4–D, Clarity, MCPA, Osprey, Peak, and Powerflex (or those containing similar active ingredients) should not be applied once small grain growth gets beyond stages 6 or 7 (jointing stages). If these herbicides are applied too late, crop injury, reduced yield, and uneven ripening can result. Herbicides that can be applied beyond these growth stages are very limited and include Axial, Buctril, Stinger, and Starane. Refer to the Penn State Agronomy Guide for additional details about small grain growth stages and herbicide options:
Weed of the Month: Hairy Bittercress
We have been asked several times over the last month about a small winter annual mustard that seems to have exploded in some areas this year. Hairy bittercress is a winter annual mustard that is native to Europe and Asia but seems to have gained some ground in our area in 2012. It is one of the earliest flowering plants in the spring with small white flowers that develop into pods called siliques. The silique will burst explosively when ripe sending the seeds a short distance from the mother plant. This plant is abundant in some no-till fields and in home gardens, flowerbeds, and even in lawns that have not yet been mowed. Although not a particularly competitive plant, it can be a nuisance and difficult to reduce the population once it is established. I have noticed it gaining a foothold around my home property the last 2 or 3 years but this year it is definitely more widespread.
It is quite sensitive to several herbicides including glyphosate or 2,4–D or to mechanical removal but the key is to control it before it is too numerous and sets seed to build next year’s infestation. Many other winter annuals are also abundant in our crop fields this spring including the chickweeds, red deadnettle, henbit, several speedwells, common groundsel, and downy brome to name a few. Scout those fields now, identify what is there, and plan your control strategy before they set seed.
— Bill Curran and Dwight Lingenfelter, Penn State Weed Science
2012 Machinery Custom Rates
The new 2012 Machinery Custom Rates is now available. You can call our office for a copy, 610-378-1327, or go to the Web site: