Hay Expo Provides a Break From Corn Talk

Prairie Gleanings

Illinois, Indiana are a bit behind on alfalfa cutting.

Published on: June 10, 2009

There's an oft-repeaded phrase in Illinois, "Corn is king." For the past several months, delayed corn planting has been the hot topic.

However, this week, I traveled to Hixton, Wis. for the Farm Progress Hay Expo. It's been fun to take a break from corn to discuss alfalfa -- a crop that doesn't get a lot of publicity in central Illinois.

At the Expo, I met a couple of farmers from southern Indiana who raise a few hundred acres of alfalfa for local horse owners. Both said the delayed planting season has put them behind on their first cutting by about a month.

The Hay Expo's mowing demonstration drew quite the crowd. Onlookers also took in chopping, baling and raking demos.

Dave Brix, host farmer for the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, agrees. Brix manages the Farm Progress Show parking lot's alfalfa acreage. Last week, he was still waiting to make the first cut.

According to the Illinois Department of Ag's weekly crop report, 51% of farmers were on their first cutting as of Monday of this week. This is somewhat ahead of last year (40%), but behind the five year average of 71%.

During lunch at the Hay Expo, I had a nice chat with Leon Herried of Cal/West Seeds. I asked what was hot in terms of alfalfa genetics. Basically, the same thing that's hot in corn -- traits. His company is working on a variety of traits, with the biggie being stress tolerance.

I also met a grower who purchased Roundup Ready alfalfa before it was pulled from the market. She said the herbicide tolerant alfalfa made some of the cleanest hay she's ever raised. Many of her horse-owning clients were quite impressed.

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