With a large portion of the Midwest facing drought conditions this growing season, this fall’s management practices on crop and alfalfa fields could greatly impact growing conditions next spring, says Matt Hubsch, lead agronomist with Legend Seeds, De Smet, S.D.
 
Hubsch says soil sampling after a drought could cut fertilizer expenses next spring.
 
"During a drought plants are unable to utilize nitrogen and other nutrients in the soil profile, making residual nitrates available to the 2013 crop. Find out, this fall, how much nitrogen will be left behind for next spring," Hubsch said.
 
What to do with drought damaged corn? If the corn in the field is too damaged by drought to yield grain and chopping it for silage isn’t an option, Hubsch says growers might consider leaving it in the field instead of grazing it or haying it for livestock feed.
 
"The risk of nitrate poisoning is very real. While ensiling reduces nitrate levels, often making it safe for livestock consumption, corn left in the field or cut for hay may have toxic levels of nitrates," he said.
Before making either of these decisions, he says growers need to get their corn tested. If rates are too high to safely feed, consider leaving the corn in the field allowing the nutrients in the plant to return to the soil to feed next year’s crop.
 
Resist the temptation to take a late season cutting of alfalfa
Hay supplies are tight. If we receive some late season moisture, many might be tempted to cut a late season cutting of alfalfa. Hubsch strongly discourages this.
 
"Cutting alfalfa within 30 days of the traditional killing frost date will dramatically lower the plant’s ability to survive winter conditions. The plant depends on the late-season regrowth for winter carbohydrate and nutrient stores," he said.