Agronomy Update



In soybean production, one of the key objectives is to achieve as much canopy as possible by flowering (R1-R2).  Since soybeans are photoperiod-sensitive, flowering will normally begin around June 20-25th.  With delayed planting this season, how do we maximize canopy closure by flowering?

Generally, growers should stick with their commonly used maturity groups.  Fuller season soybeans normally produce greater height, quicker canopy and produce more pods.  Changing a maturity group by .5 to 1.0 only varies maturation about three to five days.                     

Planting rates should be increased about 10 percent every 10 to 14 days after June 1.  Increasing plant population will force soybeans to grow taller, increase canopy and produce more pods.   

In addition, if possible, consider narrowing the row width.  Narrowing the row width will also improve canopy closure, increase plant height and produce more pods.



The hard winter and wet spring have affected alfalfa producers in many ways:

  • Winter kill – one of the worst ever
  • Many planned new seedings were not completed due to the wet spring.
  • Difficulty in cutting first cutting on time, resulting in lowered quality forage
  • Saturated soils for much of the spring have resulted in struggling plants, higher than expected plant disease, delayed harvest, and the risk of wheel traffic damage to alfalfa crowns and to soils.


Management strategies:

  • The window for planting new seedings may be pretty much closed for spring.  Consider planting an “emergency” forage for some summer production, and then seed alfalfa in late summer.
  • For stands severely damaged by the winter conditions, you’ve already made decisions on keeping or replacing those stands.  Follow through on those plans.  We like an aggressive approach, i.e. if a stand is not very good, plant corn or some other crop.  On the other hand, in a year of potentially severe shortage of good quality forage, you may need to keep a stand that is not ideal.
  • Harvest as soon as possible, trying to minimize the negative effects of traffic on wet soils.
  • If harvest is delayed significantly, consider cutting higher than normal to protect second growth shoots that may be already coming up.  If those second cutting stems are cut off with a late, low-cut first cutting, it may significantly delay second cutting growth.
  • Fertilize as normal after first cutting.  This is normally a good time to apply potash and other needed nutrients.
  • Manage insect pressure aggressively – already stressed plants don’t need additional stress due to insect feeding.
  • Consider foliar feeding as second growth begins as a way to boost production coming out of a very difficult spring season.  There are many good foliar feed fertilizer packages available.  They will not replace the larger amount of nutrients that need to be applied as broadcast granular fertilizers, but foliar applied products can provide a significant boost to struggling plants.



In most areas, the 2019 spring weather conditions have not been conducive to putting in a crop. In some instances, we may need to contact Crop Insurance Representatives and discuss Prevent Plant options on the affected acres. Making the decision to Prevent Plant is not always an easy one. Weed control and seeding expenses are still present, as well as how this cover crop will affect the rotation on this field. Will it provide too much residue and present planting issues in 2020?

Deciding to Prevent Plant and put in a cover crop allow producers to do things on a different time schedule or to think outside the box. Examples would be:

  • Put in drainage tile (where allowed)
  • Spread manure to reduce this fall or next spring’s work load as well as increasing the manure holding capacity of pits or lots
  • Get a start on 2020 planting


Making the decision to seed in a cover crop on Prevent Plant acres:  If you have need for a forage crop in your operation or can sell alfalfa, it may be time to look at Prevent Plant acres as an opportunity to start for the 2020 planting season and utilize alfalfa as your cover crop. If you decide to seed some alfalfa as your cover crop, possible watch outs are:

  • Herbicide Residues:  What is the replant restriction on herbicides that were applied to this field? You may need to go back more than just last season to review this.
  • pH: Alfalfa likes to have a pH of 7, and can grow in soils less than that, but will yield less. Applying a soil amendment (lime) to raise the pH will help.
  • Fertility: One ton of Alfalfa has a crop removal of 51-12-49-.01 Boron and 5.4 Sulfur.  In most cases just applying manure does not provide enough nutrients to grow a good crop.


Branch-rooted alfalfas such as HybriForce-3420/Wet, 2420/Wet and Magnum 7-Wet tend to grow better and produce more tons on wetter soils than other alfalfas which makes them a good choice on these acres. If you are looking at seeding acres with a higher saline soil, Magnum Salt provides a branch-rooted alfalfa that is bred to produce in wetter saline soils.

There are many options when it comes to prevent plant acres and it is strongly suggested that you discuss these with your Crop Insurance Representative. Contact your local Dairyland Seed Representative or Agronomist if you have further questions about utilizing Alfalfa as a cover crop.




Brian Weller
Western Region



Dan Ritter
Central Region



Branden Furseth
Northern Region



Rod King
Eastern Region



Terry Jones
Eastern Region