Message from Winter Meetings
What is the verdict on last year? Prairie Creek Seed has been to and hosted dozens of meetings and conferences in the last few months and there has been a common theme: Wow, 2019 was rough. This holds true through dairy groups, beef groups, organic, non-organic, cover croppers, and grain farmers all around. Too much water was a main concern for a majority of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, but there were also drought issues in Illinois and Missouri in 2019. Since we have mostly been in the areas with too much moisture, we have seen the challenges that this has presented:
The general consensus of 2019 was that pasture productivity was low. Thanks to the excess moisture, most pastures were waterlogged for most of the season. What does this do underground? With water filling all pore spaces with nowhere to go, almost all of the air was locked out of pasture soils. This means soil biology and rooting ability was stalled for long periods of time. Pasture productivity perfectly mirrors this shut down soil activity.
Solution for 2020: Maintain grazing rotation to allow pasture species to fully recover and build their root systems that were suffocated last season. Also consider ways to get air back into your pasture soils. Aerators and pasture renovation coulters can be a useful tool in this situation. We do not need to till the ground, just start getting air down in there to reactivate the soil biology.
Cover Crops and Forages-
What cover crops? That may be the response from those who were not able to seed fall cover crops last year. It is true that there are limitations in the fall for getting cover crops in the ground and being too wet and getting snow in October are great examples. For those who depend on cover crops as forages, this year was extra difficult.
Solution for 2020: Don’t stay down on yourself too long about not getting cover crops in. There can still be opportunities this spring for frost seeding or early spring cover crops to go into your rotation. On the forage side of things, utilizing a small grain in your rotation can be a risk management tool allowing a great time for a summer seeded forage to meet your livestock's needs when other forages are not producing like you need them to.
Messages Moving Forward -
It is clear that farms have to build resilience to combat the weather extremes that have occured and the challenges that will continue to occur. How can we do this? Take a hard look at your rotation and where you can manage your risk better. Also consider diversifying your operation to give yourself flexibility and spread that risk.
Prairie Creek Seed is optimistic about 2020 and we are looking forward to new chances for planting, grazing, and harvesting throughout the year. We are remaining only optimistic for the year to come!