Pastures are often overlooked and not managed properly

Ned Birkey

Wow! All the weather people that I watch and listen to are forecasting some nice May weather ahead. Temperatures are returning to normal with some precipitation also, but nothing like the eight straight days we had April 26 to May 3! With nice weather, the main value of checking the growing degree days at the MSU Enviroweather station at Applewood Orchards at Deerfield is to forecast insect development. Although there is still a chance of frost, no one is forecasting it, so some people are planting warm season crops.Pastures are often overlooked and therefore not managed properly. Should soil samples be taken in rotational or permanent pastures? Should they be managed for weeds? The answer to both is of course, yes, pastures are a crop for livestock and as such need to be properly managed. Animals will not do well if there is little growth of desirable plant species, no do they particularly like weeds and some weeds are noxious. The procedure for pulling soil samples is the same regardless of the crop, getting a representative sample(s) of the field. Grass pastures need nitrogen fertilizer similar to a lawn or other grasses such as corn or wheat and may need lime, phosphorus or potassium.Deer pastures require management, soil testing, etc., the same as pastures for other animal species. Many times, people have told me they think they have a micronutrient problem in their deer parcels up north, but usually it is an overgrazing problem. Last year deer were feeding on my soybean leaves and apples here in Monroe County and we had deer tracks leading up to our bird feeder this winter. Deer, blackbirds and starlings are nuisance predators here that are difficult to manage.Wheat is rapidly growing into and through the important Feekes growth stage six, when elongation begins. Now any sprays require more attention and management. A second topdressing application of nitrogen should be on now, but it is too early to think about head scab. Remember to use the MSU Diagnostic Clinic for any insect, weed or disease identification or diagnoses.Insects such seedcorn maggot in corn and soybeans and alfalfa weevil are two insect pests to monitor. Seedcorn maggot is more likely to be a problem in fields where cover crops or other green vegetation has been disked in, or manure applied, just prior to planting. Insecticidal seed treatments typically provide good protection, unless crops were planted into cold, wet soils and are slow to germinate. Alfalfa weevils will now be starting to feed, but farmers may wish to keep in mind an early harvest of hay instead of spraying. Bean leaf beetles overwinter and will feed on crops such as alfalfa and clover before they move to their preferred host of soybeans. We can normally expect three generations a year, starting with the overwintering one and then two more up until fall. Normally the overwintering generation does not cause economic injury and given our winter and spring weather, I would tend to think that will be true this year also. Remember that MSU and OSU collaborated on a new Field Crop Insect Management Guide, which can be downloaded by visiting’s Day means that tomatoes and other flowers and vegetables were planted. Great May crops include asparagus, spinach and rhubarb. Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables grown. There is nothing quite like picking fresh produce from the garden and tomatoes are one of those crops that seem to taste better when picked mature and fresh. Planting multiple varieties and at several intervals will help ensure a nice and continuous crop even if deer, disease or the ruinous tomato hornworms are present. Tomatoes can be transplanted right up to their lowest leaves, in well drained soils, that get at least six hours of sunlight per day. Staking or cages are usually recommended and pruning is easy to do to keep them within their space confines. Untreated grass clipping or black and white pages of the newspaper are two good mulching options to keep weeds down and hold soil moisture.