Several people commented on my column last week where I mentioned our rain gauge volunteers and the diligent job they are doing reporting just how much and where the rains are occurring. We can say with some assurance that this was the wettest April ever in Henry County, with every reporting station recording well more than the old Louisville record of 11.1 inches. Our reports ranged from a low of 13.21 inches up to 17.90 inches, with most falling in the 14 to 15 inch range.
All over the state, this wet weather has caused delays in corn planting, with farmers now making decisions about whether to plant corn or switch to soybeans. In a conference call Monday morning, UK specialist addressed many of the pressing issues. One of the rules of thumb is that for every day past approximately May 15 in Central Kentucky, we could expect about a one percent loss of yield in corn. This means that about the end of May, we could expect a 15 percent yield reduction. However, the market is now favoring corn in relation to soybeans, and soybean seed in some regions will likely be hard to get, making folks who had planned to plant corn more apt to go with corn, even in later May.
Henry County agriculture will be in full swing next time our soils get dry enough for field work. Believe it, farmers will be planting corn, planting soybeans, fertilizing ground, spraying ground, cutting, raking and baling hay, disking ground, setting tobacco, and many other tasks from daylight to dark. Actually, you can expect some operations to go well into the night to get things done. Expect to see tractors, trucks, and trailers on all county roads, so be careful out there.
Low soil pH reduces fertilizer efficiency
University studies show that failure to maintain soil pH at proper levels decreases fertilizer efficiency resulting in lower yields and wasted money.
Uptake of the major soil nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – is optimized at a soil pH range of 6.3 to 7.0. When the soil pH drops below this range, N, P & K uptake efficiency is reduced. According to UGA Extension Forage Agronomist Dennis Hancock, nutrient uptake efficiency on soil with a pH of 5.6 is reduced 35 percent for N, 50 percent for P and 10 percent for K when compared to uptake at a soil pH of 6.2. For hayland, this can result in lost fertilizer value totaling $60 or more per acre annually.
The annual cost of aglime needed to raise a lower pH to levels where other nutrients are more efficiently utilized is economically feasible.
Mob grazing misconceptions
Mob grazing is a hot topic in the grazing world. I’ve already heard some farmers discussing the pros and cons, but I’ve also heard some misconceptions. Mob grazing is a popular name for ultra-high stock density grazing. Picture around a hundred or more cow-calf pairs per half acre, and so forth. Of course, you can stay on that small piece of ground for only a brief time with that much animal pressure. So this mob of animals is moved to fresh pasture several times each day.
Mob grazing can increase forage utilization because animals don’t have much chance to graze selectively - they eat most of what they can get to. They also trample lots of grass into the soil and spread manure quite uniformly across the small area they are grazing.
Mob grazing is not a season-long method of grazing. Instead, it works best when there is much stemmy growth, especially old growth from the previous year or where weeds have taken over. You might use it for a couple of months, or maybe only a day or two. Primarily use it as a way to rejuvenate overgrown pasture. Used correctly, mob grazing can help almost everyone.