University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
February 12, 2014
Source: Dan Martens, Extension Educator
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties
Alfalfa Yield is the Elephant in the Room
By Dan Martens, University of Minnesota Extension
FOLEY, Minn. (02/06/14) — Talking at the central Minnesota forage crop workshop, Penn State Forage Specialist Marvin Hall explained that yield and quality are both important when growing alfalfa and other forage crops. But when it comes to alfalfa, we probably have a better handle on what we know about quality than with what we know about yield.
Hall suggested getting a better handle on real yield numbers is important for making crop and farm management decisions; and will probably become even more important as government programs put even more emphasis on crop insurance as a way to manage weather and market risk on farms. Hall showed data that indicates many farmers respond to National Ag Statistics Service Surveys by saying alfalfa yields run 3-4 tons per acre or less – maybe like we have thought about for a lot of years. Work being done through central Wisconsin to weigh and test moisture on whole fields through the growing season shows a lot of yields more in the range of 5-6 tons per acre with some higher than that.
It’s easier to measure yields for grain crops with one harvest, and the crop going in a bin that can be measured or going across a market scale. Farmers keep track of grain yields to establish production histories that are used as a basis for farm program payments on crop insurance levels. Government payments will be less significant with the new farm bill, but maintaining accurate yield records will continue to be important with crop insurance tools.
The Midwest Forage Association continues discussions with farmers and Risk Management Agency staff about ways to make crop insurance a more useful risk management tool for alfalfa and other hay crops.
Hall’s discussion about keys to better alfalfa yields included: