Prepping fields for production


TAYLOR COUNTY—The West Virginia University Extension Service is addressing the unusually wet weather and how it can indeed make life difficult for West Virginia Farmers.

In the summer, heavy excessive rain can hinder a farmer’s ability to grow and harvest hay.  In the winter, the wet conditions make it harder to feed hay.  This results in the destruction of sod and increased mud around feeding areas. 

“This past winter has been very wet without extended periods of freezing temperatures. This has resulted in significant rutting and feeding damage to fields. This damage needs to be repaired to prevent erosion and return the fields to a productive status,” said WVU Extension Agent John Murray. 

According to a WVU Extension Service article, late winter through early spring is the time to start planning how to revegetate the muddiest areas once cattle have been turned out to pasture in the spring.

Those areas need to be revegetated as soon as possible to prevent soil and soil-fertility loss, provide forage production in the coming summer, reduce soil compaction and improve soil health for future forage production, according to the article.

“Exactly what to do will depend on the degree and extent of damage and the tools available on the farm or within the community,” Murray noted.

Where you see damage primarily from hoof treading, try using a chain harrow to work the area when the soil dries. 

This will break up most light clumps of hay, unless the hay was repeatedly fed in the same spot, then a front-end loader might be necessary to remove excess hay. This should open up the area enough for seedlings to establish. 

Where the area is damaged from tire ruts, it might need to be disked out with a heavy field disk.  A back blade or dozer blade should work if a heavy disk isn’t available.  When the soil is worked up it is then best to spread seed. 

“It really depends on how much damage is done as to what I use.  There are so many different ways to go,” said local farmer Corey Lambert.

If additional summer grass is needed, sudangrass or a sorghum-sudangrass hybrid is recommended for planting. 

It is important to keep livestock off the reseeded winter-feeding areas until the seedlings have grown eight to 12 inches tall or 18-30 inches for sudangrass and sorghum-sudangrass. 

Also, don’t allow animals to graze off more than half the forage or stay on the area for more than seven days. It is preferred that they only be allowed on the area for three days. 

Repairing winter feeding areas can be costly so make sure you invest wisely.  Purchase a good chain harrow, use only blue-label certified seed and develop a management plan that reduces winter damage to reduce long-term costs.

To obtain more information, please visit the WVU Extension Service at https://extension.wvu.edu.

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