Linda Geist
Senior Information Specialist
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group

April 25, 2018

Cold, dry conditions delay planting and forage growth

COLUMBIA, Mo. - University of Missouri Extension agronomists voiced concern during a teleconference that cool, dry conditions are causing delayed planting and slow forage growth statewide.

MU Extension climatologist Pat Guinan reported double-digit departures from normal temperatures for northern Missouri during the first three weeks of April. Much of the state also suffers from a lack of moisture, he said. Missouri typically receives 4 inches of precipitation in April. This year, some parts of northern and central Missouri are reporting only 1/2 to 1 inch.

Almost 20 percent of the state's topsoil moisture is in short to very short supply, according to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Forage growth suffering; hay in very short supply

"Lack of water is limiting forage growth. Hay supplies are exhausted," said Matt Herring, MU Extension agronomist in Franklin County.

State extension forage specialist Craig Roberts said forage growth is at least two weeks behind normal. Cattle producers statewide already face a shortage of hay after a dry fall. Many producers typically allow cattle to graze on fields all winter because of high stocking rates. This year, cattle grazed longer and hay was either unavailable or of poor nutritional quality.

When this happens, cattle eat down to the carbohydrate reserve, which stunts regrowth after green-up. Growers hoping to stimulate regrowth by adding nitrogen to fields this late in the year should limit rates. Nitrogen stimulates regrowth, but the first cut will be stemmy and lack nutrients. "It may produce hay, but not the kind you want," Roberts said.

Those who still want to add nitrogen should apply at a rate of 30 pounds per acre instead of the usual 60 pounds, Roberts said. "Clipping seed heads and harvesting the second cutting will be best. Otherwise it may be toxic and low, low energy on the nutritional side," he said. When seed heads emerge, the forage becomes less digestible.

NASS reported on April 23 that 57 percent of the state's hay supply is in short or very short supply. It also reported 25 percent of the state's pastures are in poor to very poor condition, with 52 percent rated fair.

Corn planting behind, but full steam ahead

Agronomists reported that corn planting is well underway, although far behind the average. According to the April 23 NASS report, planting was 16 percent complete, up from 4 percent the previous week. By comparison, Missouri farmers had completed 42 percent of corn planting this time last year.

MU Extension agronomist Bill Wiebold said corn producers should watch for imbibitional chilling injury. Corn seed can die or produce poor stands when planted in cool, dry soil followed by cold rain. Cold water rushes into the dry seed, rupturing the membranes. Most cases of chilling injury happen within 48 hours of planting. As soils warm, the risk of injury decreases.

A lot of corn could still go in the ground with today's large equipment. Timing and the right conditions are critical. Wiebold's data from eight years of research shows that corn yields in northern and central Missouri begin to drop after May 5.

The good news

Cool, dry weather also delayed weed germination, said MU Extension weed scientist Kevin Bradley. Giant ragweed, one of the earliest weeds to emerge, seems to be the only weed on target.

Agronomists reported no insect problems, except for sightings of winter grain mite in southwestern Missouri.