The crop insurance deadlines for annual crops have passed, but farmers still have an opportunity to generate a salable crop from those unseeded acres – while controlling weeds and soaking up some of that excess moisture.
Extension agronomists and cattle producers are urging crop farmers with unseeded acres to grow greenfeed.
With so many pastures and hayfields flooded there should be a market for it. As well, a cover crop will dry the land, keep weeds at bay, can be grazed or used for green manure or help protect a fall-seeded crop, or even be harvested for grain if the frost holds off, said University of Manitoba agronomy instructor Gary Martens.
“Whatever we do it is my opinion we’ve got to keep the ground covered with plants all the time,” he said.
“Even if you can’t do anything with it, plant something.”
Almost 86 per cent of farmers enrolled in crop insurance have greenfeed coverage – an option that had to be selected before March 31.
The greenfeed seeding deadline is July 15, although when seeded after June 20 coverage drops 20 per cent, said David Koroscil, Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation’s (MASC) manager of insurance projects and sales.
Farmers who plant greenfeed after June 20 on land that was too wet to seed to an annual grain crop are still eligible for an Excess Moisture Insurance payment.
“It is extremely important, especially this year, that we plan early enough and try to get some feed requirements filled,” said Major Jay Fox, president of the Manitoba Beef Producers.
“Grain producers need to know before the grain gets in the ground there’s going to be somebody there to take off.”
Fox suggests grain and cattle farmers in the same area make arrangements.
Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives’ (MAFRI) hay listing website ( http://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/forages/bja06s00.html) also can bring sellers and buyers together.
The growing season seems longer, Martens said.
“If I couldn’t plant by the crop insurance deadline I might plant for green manure or greenfeed and if I can’t sell it I would leave it,” he said. “I might harvest a crop in October. You’re not banking on it, but perhaps it might work.”
MASC says greenfeed insurance covers specific annual crops grown for the purpose of being cut, baled, or silaged for livestock feed. Eligible crops include oats, barley, mixed grain, wheat, rye, triticale, millet, sorghum and sudan grass, grown alone or in a combination.
MAFRI forage specialist Glenn Friesen says farmers can gross $125 to $210 an acre with greenfeed based on yields of 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes an acre at $50 to $60 a tonne.
There are three main greenfeed options to consider: spring cereals, a spring cereal mixed with a winter cereal or warm weather annual forages.
Ideally weeds will be under control before planting through cultivation or a burn-off, Friesen said.
Greenfeed crops will have a shorter season so fewer nutrients are required. Some fertilizer might have to be applied if earlier applications leached due to excessive moisture.
Oats and barley are the most common spring cereals grown for greenfeed, Friesen said. Barley should be harvested at the soft dough stage, while oats should be cut in the late milk stage.
Greenfeed can be safely baled when it’s 15 per cent moisture. But in wet years farmers often wrap bales in plastic to ensile them. That’s done when moisture levels are 50 to 60 per cent.
Oats and barley can also be grazed. Grazing shouldn’t start until the crop is well enough rooted it’s not pulled out when the cattle eat.
Grazing should also begin before the boot stage so the growing point isn’t destroyed and the crop continues to grow.
Winter wheat or fall rye can be mixed with barley or oats. The spring crop can be cut for greenfeed and the winter crop grazed later in the season. There’s even a possibility the winter crop could produce grain next year, Friesen said.
Sorghum-sudan grass hybrids and millet are warm-weather greenfeed options. Friesen prefers the latter. Sorghum-sudan grass hybrids might not produce enough forage if the weather is cool, he said.
“Millets are tried and true,” Friesen said. “We’ve had a lot of experience in the province with those.”
There are two types of millet – proso and foxtail. The former produces a shorter crop and matures sooner.
The latter is a good option when planning to fall graze because its waxy coating protects the crop.
“They are small seeds so seed-to-soil contact is important so broadcasting and harrowing does work,” Friesen said.
Proso millet seeding rates range from 20 to 25 pounds an acre when seeded for greenfeed. The foxtail rate is 15 to 20 pounds an acre.
Nitrate toxicity is possible with greenfeed. Friesen recommends testing the feed in the fall. Cool, cloudy weather, hail or frost – anything that temporarily stops plants from growing – can result in high nitrate levels. Ensiling the feed cuts the nitrate in half, Friesen said.
For more information on cover crops and green manure crops check out the University of Manitoba’s Natural Systems Agriculture website: http://umanitoba.ca/outreach/naturalagriculture/articles/ccfallow.html. [email protected]
– GARY MARTENS
important,especially thisyear,thatweplan earlyenoughand trytogetsomefeed requirementsfilled.”
– major jay fox