Most farmers have parked the seeder by mid-July, but this year, thanks to abundant moisture and a program offered by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and Viterra, there are a few more reasons to plant some late forages.
The Forage Incentive Program offers conservation-minded farmers up to $30 an acre to seed any of a number of Viterra’s select forage varieties, providing both vital nesting habitat for wildfowl and more options to increase the productivity of their more marginal land.
“Our partnership with Viterra provides expanded incentives to producers to seed top-quality forages,” says Ken Gross, provincial agrologist for DUC.
“Cattle producers in particular have struggled with poor weather, which has restricted access to hay and pasture. Experience has shown that even once these areas dry up, the excess water will likely impact quality and productivity of these fields.
“For example, alfalfa has a low flooding tolerance. This partnership will help offset some of the costs required to reseed these areas. Plus, there is still time to establish forages this summer that can help take up some of the excess moisture.”
A study conducted in the aspen parkland area of Saskatchewan in 2010 by the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority and DUC measured the forage productivity of areas of restored wetlands. Despite above-normal precipitation, these areas had no standing water and forage production increased significantly. The restored wetlands had more than 1.5 times the dry matter production over that of drained wetlands.
With wet conditions prevalent across much of the Canadian Prairies this year and last, many producers are starting to think differently about planting forages later into the season, especially if the climatologists are right about this being the onset of a prolonged wet cycle.
“The only reason we typically don’t seed forages into July is because it’s dry and there is a greater risk that it won’t germinate, but this year we have abundant moisture so there’s no reason not to go ahead and seed forages well into July or August,” says Michael Thiele, Grazing Clubs co-ordinator for the Manitoba Forage Council.
There are also some important economic reasons for seeding forages into wet areas, as a survey of 346 cattle producers who had adopted better riparian management and rotational grazing systems on their farms showed. Eighty percent of the producers reported higher weight gains, 91 per cent reported higher forage production, 88 per cent had higher forage quality and 52 per cent benefited from lower overwintering costs.
These benefits, combined with the Forage Incentive Program, are good reasons to consider later plantings of forage crops. “There has been good interest from producers to date,” says Gross, who adds that fall planting of perennial grasses (excluding perennial ryegrass seed), alfalfa, sainfoin and clover must still be seeded on or after July 25, but not later than August 15 to qualify for crop insurance.
For more informat ion on DUC’s Forage Incentive Program, contact Ducks in Brandon at 1-866-251-DUCK (3825) or email [email protected]
– MICHAEL THIELE