Farm Talk


February 11, 2014

Seed legumes on snowy fields

Parsons, Kansas — Winter seeding clover over grass pastures works best in February. Frozen fields are ideal and a snow cover makes seeding easier.

Adding a legume to fescue or other cool-season grass makes money, says Rob Kallenbach, University of Missouri Extension forage specialist. "Investing in clover seed is more profitable than investing in Wall Street," he said.

There are at least four reasons for overseeding leg-umes into grass pastures, Kallenbach says. It is so easy. But the main reason is legumes add pounds of gain on beef calves.

"We've recommended adding clover for years," Kallenbach says. "But now, with the price of calves, it means more money."

Four years ago, calves sold for a dollar a pound. Now they can double that.

MU grazing studies show an extra quarter pound of gain a day from calves on clover-mix pastures.

"If that doesn't sound like much, multiply that out by 200 days from birth to weaning. That's an extra 50 pounds per calf," Kallenbach says. "Do the math for your herd for all your calves."

Clover makes a big difference in diluting toxins from endophyte-infected tall fescue. Endophyte, a fungus in the fescue, cuts calf daily gains and reduces milk from mama cows.

Results are even better on nontoxic fescues.

For all those benefits, the investment in seed and labor is modest, Kallenbach says.

The legume seed is broadcast over pastures. With freezing and thawing of the soil, no tillage is needed. Expanding and shrinking works the tiny seed into the ground, but not deeply.

"Frozen ground makes easy driving across pastures. A snow cover shows tracks of where you've seeded," Kallenbach says. Seeding should be done by March 1 to give legumes an early start.

It's best to have the pasture grazed down short. "I would never say overgraze," Kallenbach says. "But if overgrazing happened, that can help the legume seeds." Seed should hit the ground, instead of landing on thatch.

Red clover seed, the most widely used legume, doesn't cost much.

Lespedeza and birdsfoot trefoil, longer-lasting leg-umes, will cost more.

White clover is often overlooked for what it adds to a grazing mix. "Often it looks like it dies in a dry spell," Kallenbach says. "But the first fall rain brings it right back. It responds to moisture."

If managed for seed set, lespedeza, once started, can last forever, he says. "However, red clover should be seeded every year. It's a perennial, but disease wipes it out after two years." Clover seeding rates are only three to four pounds per acre.

Since legumes make their own nitrogen, no nitrogen fertilizer is needed. Legumes even share nitrogen with adjacent grass. That cuts fertilizer costs.

Kallenbach assumes producers keep soil fertility, especially potash and phosphorus, up to soil-test recommendations. Most important, legumes don't tolerate acid soils very well. That means lime should have been applied to raise soil pH.

If soil fertility and pH are not high, lespedeza best tolerates poor soil. Lespedeza takes eight to 10 pounds of seed per acre. Trefoil takes five pounds.

All legumes need the appropriate rhizobium, the nitrogen-fixing bacteria, to take nitrogen from the air. Inoculants added to the seed assure nitrogen fixation.

The only hitch might be in getting the right inoculant for the legume to be sown, Kallenbach warns. "Inoculants aren't always on the shelf when needed. Tell your dealer early what you will need."

Most alfalfas, and some clover, come pre-inoculated. Lespedeza and trefoil are not often pre-inoculated. Each legume needs a different rhizobium.

Farmers often talk of good clover years. Those years depend on rain at the right time. And often they come a year after a drought. The cool-season grass will be grazed down short after a dry year. That gives legumes an edge in starting the next spring.

Freezing weather at planting isn't a problem. However, a late-spring freeze sets back tender young clover, Kallenbach says. £

Text Only
  • Scientists complete chromosome based draft of wheat genome

    Several Kansas State University researchers were essential in helping scientists assemble a draft of a genetic blueprint of bread wheat, also known as common wheat. The food plant is grown on more than 531 million acres around the world and produces nearly 700 million tons of food each year.
    The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, which also includes faculty at Kansas State University, recently published a chromosome-based draft sequence of wheat's genetic code, which is called a genome. "A chromosome-based draft sequence of the hexaploid bread wheat genome" is one of four papers about the wheat genome that appear in the journal Science.

    July 22, 2014

  • Drought & poor wheat harvest in Kan. has effects on nat’l economy

    The Kansas wheat harvest may be one of the worst on record — and the loss doesn't just hurt Kansas, according to a Kansas State University expert.

    July 15, 2014

  • Watch for corn leaf diseases

    In general, corn in southeast Kansas looks about as healthy as any reasonable producer might hope.

    July 1, 2014

  • Consider wind when applying herbicides

    Jill Scheidt, agronomy specialist with University of Missouri Extension in Barton County, scouted fields west of Lockwood on June 18 for the crop scouting program.

    June 24, 2014

  • WheatTour-007.jpg SW Mo. wheat tour yields nutrient tips

    Laying down nitrogen on the wheat fields is quite possibly one of the most complex and critical operations facing producers.

    June 17, 2014 3 Photos

  • Corn planting nears completion, early condition good

    With corn planting nearly complete and emergence keeping pace with the five-year average, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its first forecast for the condition of the 2014 U.S. corn crop.

    June 10, 2014

  • Harvesting short wheat

    In many areas of Kansas, prolonged drought has resulted in short wheat and thin stands. Harvesting wheat in these situations can be a challenge.

    June 3, 2014

  • Controlling large weeds in Roundup Ready soybeans

    Controlling large weeds is often considerably more difficult than controlling smal-ler weeds. The following are some suggestions for controlling larger troublesome weeds in soybeans.

    May 28, 2014

  • aflatoxin-corn.jpg Aflatoxin risk looms large for corn growers

    To diversify their farms and tap into high demand for one of agriculture’s most profitable crops, dryland farmers more familiar with growing wheat and milo are eager to try their hand at corn.

    May 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kan. wheat crop smallest since 1996

    WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is expected to produce its smallest winter wheat crop since 1996, an indication of a deepening drought across the nation's wheat belt, the government said in its first official forecast of the growing season.

    May 13, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Seasonal Content