By DAVID A. WILSON
"It's an exteremely good year for hay," said Bruce Longan, Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) technician, about the hay harvest this year.
And its pretty much good across the board.
"Because of the drought last year, people thought they were going to lose their pastures," Longan said. "Instead, everything is doing well. The fescue fields and other established grasses got thin from the drought because of the high temperatures and lack of rain."
He said this promoted new growth from seeds which had been on the ground already, possibly for years. It has room to grow and has had good rain and cooler temperatures and is producing enough hay.
"The main purpose of grass is to produce seedheads and it also has produced a lot of undergrowth this year," he said. "It's hard for forages when they are choked back by some other grasses."
Its the same basic situation for any kind of plant. There has to be the right amount of light, the rain they need and the space they need. Different plants will differ in the requirements. To do well the environment has to fit the needs of the plant being grown.
"It's like a herd of elephants at a water trough. It may be too much competition and some of the elephants may not get enough water."
Fertilizer may also be an issue.
"This year the fertilizer worked," Longan said. "If the rainfall doesn't come when needed after application of fertilizer, it doesn't do as much good. It may undergo volatilization."
(Volatilization, the loss of a gas to the atmosphere, is a problem if rainfall is not timely. According to an extension service report, as little as a quarter inch of rainfall is "sufficient to blend the urea into bare soil to a depth at which ammonia losses will not occur. Soil covered with residue needs at least one-half inch.")
There are many different kinds of grasses and legumes which fall under the single term "hay." The different grasses and legumes are affected differently by heavy snow, ice, late frosts, drought, and even the timing of rainfall and fertilizing.
"This year everything worked together," Longan said.
The hay crop is good, with a report of as much as 1.5 large round bales more than average, which could be about 1,800 pounds of hay. The nutritional quality of the hay also appears to be good this year.