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Spring alfalfa concerns
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With the price of feed grains and quality hay, alfalfa producers have the opportunity to generate substantial income, especially in the spring when forage stockpiles are low, before warm-season pastures are ready for grazing, or summer annual forages are planted.
Alfalfa stands in the area are breaking dormancy, greening up and growing. While hardly abundant, light spring rains coupled with the misty cool weather over much of the last ten days, has helped spring growth. As the weather continues to warm, producers need to start paying attention to pest problems as they move towards the first cutting.  Last year, insect control was very difficult and in spite of intensive control measures adopted by many producers, first cuttings were overall light and not of a high quality.
Alfalfa weevil is the most likely insect pest this time of year. Reports from the McPherson County area indicate that alfalfa weevil infestations are likely heavy and control measures are needed as-soon-as-possible. Producers need to be scouting now and make every effort to stay ahead of the problem, spraying as soon as the action threshold is reached.  Army cutworms and army worms are also a potential serious pest this time of year. Army cutworm feed whenever temperatures are above 50 degrees F. They feed at night or on overcast days so you can scout at night. Scouting during the day, you will have to dig around the base of the crowns to find them.
Ideally, after one insecticide treatment, beneficial insects will come on and control the pests and/or the plant will outgrow the pests. Last year that didn’t happen in many areas, repeated sprays were only partially effective, and beneficial insect populations were late in occurring. This lack of control was the result of unusual weather conditions and less effective chemistries currently available for control.
Hopefully, alfalfa producers have or will shortly address any soil fertility issues with their established stands. You can access fertility needs in two ways. The best, most reliable method is soil testing. A representative soil test along with the relevant information such as a realistic forage production goal will result in accurate fertilizer levels need for phosphorus (P), sulfur (S), and in some cases potassium (K). An alfalfa crop removes on average 5 pounds of P per ton of alfalfa and up to 50 pounds per acre K. While most soils in the area are naturally high in K, K deficiencies are starting to appear after 100 years of agriculture, especially with forage crops. Sulfur deficiencies are also starting to appear, especially on coarser (sandier) soils. A profile-S test is similar to a profile-N test and done to a depth of 2’ instead of 1’. Several S-fertilizer sources are available and can be easily surface broadcast and move into the soil profile.
Cattle Feeder College
Area cattle producers have the opportunity on May 5 to attend K-State’s Cattle Feeder College in Larned at the fairgrounds. The program starts at 4:30 pm with registration. The event is free to the public but registration is required.  Topics covered will include a feature presentation, “Modernizing our Industry,” by Bill Mies, professor emeritus, Texas A&M University, and breakout sessions including sessions on mills and maintenance crews, cattle crews, and managers and Human resources.  Contact Pawnee County ANR agent Rodney Wallace at 620-285-6901 or for more information or registration.