Monday, March 26, 2018

Alfalfa Growers Wait in the Dugout as Rain Delays First at Bat to Harvest Their Crop

Like baseball, spring signals renewal and optimism – a fresh start to a new season.

 But the first week of spring hasn’t been very spring-like. The rainy weather you might say has left farmers in the dugout waiting to start the first harvest of the season.

Certainly,growers have been looking forward to a strong year after seeing a rebound in 2017 when water supplies opened up after the end of the five-year drought. 
Alfalfa fields are about ready for the first cutting of the season.

The early March rain followed by several days of mid-to-high 70-degree days turned alfalfa fields into a sea of green, resembling the lush outfield grass at the ballpark. “Harvest is just around the corner,” says field scout Damien Jelen.

 But last week’s downpours, which dumped more than 2 inches of rain over three days in many Valley locales, have produced a rain delay. 

“It could be days before growers can get out into the fields,” he says. “The first cutting is very critical.”

Damien says the early dry winter could signal big pest problems for growers this season. “The worms could hit hard.”

The early season alfalfa harvests produce the best quality crop. As a low-value crop, it’s important for growers to take steps to protect their investment.

Make adjustments to the harvester during the first cutting.
Here are some tips for harvesting alfalfa after the rain:

  •   Make sure the mower/conditioner is properly adjusted. The first-cut alfalfa is usually heavier and thicker than the later season crop. As a result, cutting requires more pressure from mowers. However, too much roller pressure could create excess leaf loss. For roller conditioners, check the roller clearance and pressure to ensure they are where they need to be. Proper speed and clearance are important for impeller conditioners.
  • Wet alfalfa can be spread out to dry in the sun.
  • Make the windrow wider. If drying is a challenge, lay the alfalfa in a wide swatch to increase exposure to the wind and sun.
  • Cutting higher will help air move around the windrow, allowing for quicker drying.
  • Time your cutting. In drier areas, cutting later in the day is better. In more humid regions, cutting in the morning after the dew is off is better.
  •   Rake only if necessary. Growers may have to rake if the cut alfalfa gets rained on. If that’s the case, raking should be done when the moisture content is 30 to 40 percent. This will balance leaf loss with good drying.  Consider using a chemical aid to prevent moisture damage.

 Let’s hope nature cooperates and lets alfalfa growers start working their fields soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment