Rainfall posed challenges for forage growers this year
Some areas saw increased pest and disease pressure and decreased crop quality
By Kaitlynn Anderson
Farmers faced many challenges with their forages in 2017, according to an article released last Tuesday by Christine O’Reilly, a forage and grazing specialist with OMAFRA.
While much of Ontario witnessed dry growing conditions in 2016, the weather told a different story in many areas of the province this year.
Throughout this growing season, the cool and wet conditions delayed first cuts of alfalfa and allowed the alfalfa weevil to thrive, reaching threshold levels in some areas, according to the article.
This pest "eats the leaves and leaf buds of alfalfa plants,” O’Reilly told Farms.com today. “This feeding lowers yield and quality of the crop.”
From a distance, fields may have appeared whitish in colour due to the skeletonization of leaves, she added.
Excessive rainfall also led to above-average rust levels in grasses in many areas of the province.
While this fungus doesn’t produce mycotoxins, it can reduce the palatability of the crop, O’Reilly wrote.
“Large amounts of rust spores may also cause respiratory irritation in livestock,” O’Reilly said in her article. “If there is a concern with dusty hay, (the crop) can be soaked or diluted with other feedstuffs.”
These high amounts of precipitation also delayed first cuts of hay across the province in May and June.
In southwestern Ontario, this delay was approximately two weeks in length, she said.
And, in central and eastern Ontario, farmers had to wait up to three months to complete their first cuts of hay.
These wet conditions also made it difficult for farmers to harvest dairy hay and haylage at optimal maturity levels, O’Reilly said in her article.
In fact, Grey and Bruce counties and areas of eastern Ontario “received between 150 to 200 per cent of (their) average rainfall.”
However, dry conditions across much of the province in August and September “enabled many farmers to catch up on harvest,” she said.
While crops yielded well in these cases, the hay was of low to average quality.
“Many lots of forage were baled wet or rained on after they were cut, so farmers should test for moulds and mycotoxins,” O’Reilly said.
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