Options for managing weeds in alfalfa production

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By Steve Moore

One of the largest alfalfa producers in the state recently discussed his experiences with Roundup Ready Alfalfa.

After only one year in his rotation, Clayton Geralds of Hart County likes the potential and plans to continue adding more acreage each year.  He explains that the alfalfa varieties available as Roundup Ready are top producers, and he can economically establish a completely weed free alfalfa field.  He has the option on some of his more level ground to keep a pure alfalfa stand, but on the slightly rolling land he prefers (and many of his hay customers) to add orchard grass as a companion crop at a later time.  So far, he has been successful in spring seeding the alfalfa, controlling the weeds with glyphosate application as needed, and drilling the orchard grass into the stand in the fall.  Understand that once a grass is added to the stand, the option to control weeds with glyphosate is pretty much eliminated.

In trials comparing Roundup Ready Alfalfa vs. conventional alfalfa (treated with glyphosate vs. conventional herbicides), there has been an establishment year advantage in both yield potential and quality as a result of improved weed control and crop safety.

While the seed cost is higher (much like corn and bean seeds with roundup ready technology), this may be another weed management tool for local producers to consider.

Weeds in the lawn

Depending on the weeds, early spring can be a good time to control weeds in the home lawn. Many weeds are opportunistic, meaning that they germinate and grow in the gaps in the lawn turf. Several years of summer and fall drought has created problems spots in lawns, and a whole host of winter broadleaf weeds may be present, including chickweed, dandelion and thistles. Since they are already present and growing, they can be effectively controlled with an application of 2,4-D now. 

Knocking out weeds in this fashion can help, but homeowners are reminded that the best defense against weed problems in home lawns is a healthy and dense lawn.  Developing a dense lawn comes from using cultural practices such as proper grass species, proper mowing heights and fertilization, and other good management practices.

In regards to fertilization, now is the time to pull a good representative soil sample and bring about a half-pint of soil to the County Extension Office for a soil analysis.  We are offering some free samples to each farmer and homeowner.

Once the analysis is known, proper amounts of phosphorus and potash can be added, if needed, and pH can be adjusted, if needed.  Contrary to what you may see on TV, now is not the time to add nitrogen!  Nitrogen in the spring and summer can set your lawn up to increased disease pressure and increase the frequency of mowing.  Waiting to apply nitrogen in the late fall is the better choice in getting your desirable grass turf through the winter in good shape and better able to crowd out the weeds.  


Farm license tags donation benefits 4-H and FFA

Henry County has a great group of youth in 4-H and FFA programs, learning now to be the future leaders of our rural county and Kentucky.

More than 500 Henry County youth belong to 4-H and are active in programs and activities such as shooting sports, dog club, horse club, cooking, club, sewing club, crocheting and knitting club, rabbit and poultry club, 4-H Capitol Experience, leadership programs, country ham project, school enrichment clubs, farm to table field day, to name only a few. These 4-H programs provide opportunities to our youth and train the next generation of leaders for Kentucky’s communities.

Now there is an easy way farmers can help support the local youth programs.  As you renew your farm license plates at the county clerk’s office, please make the voluntary $10 donation to support youth programs and activities. We want to remind you now about the program since farm license plates are renewed in March.

The farm license plate donation program is supported by Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer. The money raised by the program is evenly split between Kentucky 4-H, Kentucky FFA, and Kentucky Proud, which promotes agricultural products raised, grown or processed in Kentucky by Kentuckians.

Last year, I understand that donations coming directly to Henry County 4-H and Henry County FFA totaled $1,400 each.  This funding has provided for much education and training for our futures leaders.  We encourage you to consider a donation this year to increase that amount.

Cattleman’s Association meeting

The Henry County Cattleman’s Association will meet this month on Tuesday, March 26, instead of the usual Monday night meeting.  Please make a note of this in your calendars, and contact the Henry County Extension Office at 845-2811 for details and to register.