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Spring is almost here
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 Even though the area experienced a dose of winter last weekend, spring is just around the corner. Wheat in the area benefitted from the recent moisture and the forecast is predicting chances for precipitation over the next few days. As the days lengthen and the temperature warms more than wheat will become active. If temperatures stay mild, army cutworm, true armyworm, greenbugs, and the Bird Cherry-Oat Aphid will likely be making appearances. All but the aphid mentioned may or may not rise to levels significant enough to warrant treatment. If producers are fortunate, they won’t appear or if they do, the wheat may grow rapidly enough to outgrow these pests. However, thin wheat and wheat that is stressed in any way is more susceptible to economic levels of damage and a lot of the wheat in the area is on the thin side. The one that does little damage itself is the Bird Cherry-Oat Aphid. The reason to mention this aphid is its tendency to transmit the barley yellow dwarf virus which if established early enough can significantly reduce wheat yields. Unfortunately once wheat is infected with the virus there is little that can be done.
 As for diseases such as rust, it is way too early to know if there will be a problem or not. A lot depends on what the weather is south of us in Oklahoma and Texas. If these southern areas serve as rust nurseries and prevailing winds help move it north, we could have problems.
 The end of February is less than two weeks away and with good soil moisture, this presents an opportunity for producers looking for pasture and/or hay for cattle. March is an excellent time to plant spring oats for grazing or haying. Planting two bushels per acre of spring oats in four to six weeks if the weather helps out, can provide good pasture for cattle and serve as a bridge forage source until spring permanent pastures are ready. If used for hay that is baled shortly after heading, a good year can produce two to three or more tons per acre when properly fertilized. Oat seed is relatively inexpensive and a modest nitrogen rate could supply much needed pasture.
 Some work done in the state for spring planted pasture or hay looked at planting winter wheat, triticale, and even rye when you would sow spring oats. The preliminary data suggested good production, primarily for grazing. Since these are winter cereals, little or no heading should take place as there won’t be a vernalization period. This allows the use of forages like rye or triticale without worrying about seed production and the ensuing rye/triticale contamination of fields. The growth resembles that of a lawn as it tends to stay prostrate and doesn’t bolt. None of these forage options will produce much without at least minimal fertilization, especially nitrogen.
Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.