Small Grains Update

Small Grains Update

A timely update from UD Extension Specialists on March 5, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Wheat and barley growers will be itching to get back in the field and can join this brief zoom meeting covering fertility and pest management. 1.0 Delaware and 3.0 Maryland pesticide continuing education credit will be available.

Register online at

Fall Pasture Workshop

While summer may be almost over and the main grazing season is concluding, the fall is one of the best times of the year to evaluate the condition of your pastures and complete some pasture management tasks that will pay dividends the next grazing season. Join Dr. Jarrod Miller , Extension Agronomy Specialist and Susan Garey, Extension Agent Animal Science for the University of Delaware for the final program in our Webinar Wednesday Pasture and Hay series as we discuss topics such as assessing your pasture, fall fertility and soil testing, overseeding, stockpiling of forage, weed control and grazing management going into winter.  Spend some time now before it gets cold preparing your pasture for spring growth.  Delaware nutrient management continuing education credits are available for this webinar.

Registration is free but required to receive the Zoom link.

Sponsored by Delaware Cooperative Extension, a joint effort between Delaware State University and the University of Delaware

Renovating Pastures


Join Dr. Amanda Grev, PhD – University of Maryland Forage Specialist for another program in our Webinar Wednesday forage series. Is your pasture in need of some renovation? How do you know if, when, or how to renovate? This webinar will cover the basics of pasture renovation, including an overview of some different types of renovation, steps you can take to determine if renovation is needed, and a step by step guide for the renovation process.

Sponsored by Delaware Cooperative Extension, a joint effort between Delaware State University and the University of Delaware.

This program is brought to you by University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, a service of the UD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources – a land-grant institution.  This institution is an equal opportunity provider.  If you have special needs that need to be accommodated, please contact us.

Weed Management in Pastures Webinar

Join Dr. Mark VanGessel, University of Delaware Extension Weed Specialist for another program in our Webinar Wednesday forage series. Managing weeds in pasture is a common question among horse owners and livestock producers. In this webinar you will learn about these plants we call weeds; why they are a concern for many owners and producers and what strategies you can use to control them. We will discuss both cultural and chemical methods for weed control and also briefly touch on the topic of toxic weeds.

To register:

Sponsored by Delaware Cooperative Extension, a joint effort between Delaware State University and the University of Delaware.

This program is brought to you by University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, a service of the UD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources – a land-grant institution.  This institution is an equal opportunity provider.  If you have special needs that need to be accommodated, please contact us.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020 at 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Virtual Event  

Forage Directory Available

Maryland/Delaware Forage Directory

Jarrod O. Miller, Extension Agronomist, jarrod@udel.eduDan Severson, Agriculture Agent, New Castle County,


To assist in the hay and forage market, the Maryland Delaware Forage Council (MDFC) has setup an online forage directory for buyers and sellers of hay ( This directory is available to the public to browse, but hay producers must be a member of the MDFC to post hay for sale.


The directory is separated by the Delmarva, Central, and Western Maryland regions to help those in search of hay. Any forage producer may list their hay by type (grass/legume/mixed) or bale size (large/square/other) and include any other information they would like the public to know.


If you would like to post hay for sale on the MDFC page (, membership can be done by mail or online and is only $25 per year for individual or business memberships.

Reading and Understanding Seed Labels (Tags)

Reading and Understanding Seed Labels (Tags)

Dan Severson, New Castle Co. Ag Agent;

Quality of seed can vary greatly. The key to getting the best quality seed is to read and understand the information on the seed tag. Seed laws require that each lot is labeled to prevent misrepresentation of seeds offered for sale. This applies to a single species or a mixture, certified or non-certified seeds. Understanding the seed label will allow proper decision making when planning and installing a seeding.

The Federal Seed Act ( and the Delaware State Seed law Title 3 Chapter 15 ( specify the information required on the seed tag (see example seed tag on page 3). Seed tags are issued by the official seed certifying agency for each state. The Seed Laboratory of Delaware Department of Agriculture is the official seed certifying agency for the state of Delaware. All state certification agencies comply with the minimum requirements and standards of the Association of Official Seed Certification Agencies (AOSCA) ( to insure uniform testing methods and minimum standards of seed quality. Seed labels may vary from state to state, but all labels will have some semblance uniformity since the Federal Seed Act requires some information for interstate commerce.

Components of the seed label

  • Type and Variety – Cultivar/release name, species, and common name;
  • Lot number – a series of letters or numbers assigned by the grower for tracking purposes;
  • Origin – where the seeds were grown;
  • Net weight – how much material is in the container;
  • Percent pure seed (purity) – how much of the material is actually the desired seed;
  • Percent inert matter – how much of the material in the bag is plant debris or other materials that are not seed;
  • Percent other crop seeds – other non-weed seeds;
  • Percent weed seeds – seeds considered weed species;
  • Percent germination (germ) – how much of the seed will germinate readily;
  • Hard seed – seed which does not germinate readily because of a hard seed coat;
  • Dormant seed – seed which does not germinate readily because it requires a pre-treatment or weathering in the soil (Some suppliers may combine hard and dormant seed on the label.);
  • Germination test date – date should be within 12 months of the planned date for using the seed;

The date for how long the seed can be sold varies from state and type of seed. Delaware’s current time is 14 months, excluding the test date (total of 15). Most small packs of vegetable and flower seeds are marked packed for year 20?? They can only be sold for that year.

  • Name and address of company responsible for analysis (seller or grower).
  • Name of restricted noxious weed seeds (with number per pound of seed);

There are 2 types of noxious weed seeds – restricted and prohibited. Restricted weed seeds are listed as seeds per pound of material in the bag. There should be no prohibited weed seeds.

The restricted weed seeds for Delaware are dodder, bindweed, wild onion, wild garlic, corn cockle, horse nettle, cheat or chess, annual bluegrass and giant foxtail.

The prohibited list of weed seeds for Delaware are Canada thistle, quack grass and johnsongrass.

The prohibited and restricted noxious weed seed for Delaware are not the same as the Noxious Weeds list. Delaware currently has six noxious weeds: johnsongrass, Canada thistle, burcucumber, giant ragweed, Texas panicum and Palmer amaranth.

You may also see the following additional information on the label:

  • Total Viability/Germination – this may or may not be stated. Total viability = Germination + Hard Seed + Dormant Seed. Total Viability may not equal 100%. This just means that some of the seed is not viable and will not germinate.

A typical seed label:

example seed tag

In addition to the seed analysis label, there may be a second label indicating the certification class of seed. The most typical second label would be blue and would indicate it as CERTIFIED SEED. Certified seed is the progeny of seed that has been handled to maintain genetic identity and purity and has been approved by a state certifying agency. Certified seed should be the first choice for any seeding project, especially when cultivars are used.

Using the Seed Label

  • The total of Pure Seed, Other Crop, Inert Matter and Weed Seed should always equal 100%.
  • If the purity or germination is very low, you may not want to use the seed.
  • If there are noxious weed seeds, you should know what they are and whether they will be a problem on your planting site. You may not want to use this seed source because doing so risks introducing a problem.
  • Always purchase and use seed based on Pure Live Seed (PLS). PLS is the amount of seed which will germinate and can be calculated using numbers from the seed label.

First, determine total viability

Viability = germination + hard seed + dormant seed

Viability is the percent of seed which will germinate, though it may not all germinate the first season. In our example, total viability = 93.00%.

Next, calculate the amount of Pure Live Seed (PLS)

PLS = (% Purity x %Viability)/100

In our example: PLS = (93.8 x 93)/100 = 87.23%

PLS can be used for calculating the amount of seed you will need to buy for a planting or when calibrating the output of a drill.

Bulk seed/acre = (lbs. PLS recommended/acre)/Percent PLS

If we want to seed 10 acres at 8 lbs. PLS/acre., then

(8 lbs. PLS/acre)/ 87.23% = 9.17 lbs. bulk/acre x 10 acres = 91.7 lbs. bulk seed needed .8723 PLS

Most native plant seed is sold on a PLS basis because germination and purity can be so variable. Always specify buying seed by the PLS pound to make sure you get the amount of seed you need. For example, percent germination rate of legumes is often lower than percent germination of grass species. Some of the cool-season turf-type grasses (fescues, orchard grass) and agronomic seed (oats, rye) are sold on the basis of bulk pounds only because germination and purity are typically very high and minimums are regulated by the Federal Seed Act.

The cheapest bag of seed is not always the best purchase. By understanding the information on the seed tag you can determine the quality of seed you are purchasing. By comparing the purity and percent germination you will be able to decide which bag of seed will produce a more successful, uniform and weed free stand.

Restricted and prohibited weeds vary by state and no seed can be sold if it contains prohibited weeds. Seed that is moved across state lines must meet the most restrictive state’s requirements. By monitoring the weed species in the lot, you can control what weeds are seeded in a planting.

Always order your seed as PLS seeding rate. Purity and germination percentages found on the seed tag determine Pure Live Seed (all seeding recommendations are given in Pure Live Seed rates) from which the bulk-seeding rate is calculated.

Englert, J.M. 2007. A Simplified Guide to Understanding Seed Labels. Maryland Plant Materials Technical Note No. 2. USDA-NRCS National Plant Materials Center, Beltsville, MD. 3p.

Kaiser, J. 2010. Reading Seed Packaging Labels (Seed Tags). Agronomy Technical Note – MO-38. Elsberry, MO.







Brought to you by UD Cooperative Extension, this webinar will prepare you for the coming baleage making season.  Learn about the practical aspects of making quality baleage for feeding ruminants.  The webinar will cover a bit on general silage fermentation and address what is baleage, the pros of baleage, challenges with baleage and tips for making good baleage.


This webinar is being conducted by Dr. Limin Kung, Jr., S. Hallock du Pont Professor of Animal Science, Dairy Nutrition and Silage Fermentation Laboratory, Department of Animal and Food Science at the University of Delaware.


This program is brought to you by the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, a service of the UD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources – a land-grant institution.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider. If you have special needs that need to be accommodated, please contact the host two weeks prior to event.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020 at 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Virtual Event register at our website:

Interseeding Alfalfa Into Corn Shows Promise

Interseeding alfalfa into corn to boost alfalfa yields and reduce soil and nutrient loss shows promise in studies at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center near Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. The economics are positive as well.

“The interseeding of alfalfa into corn serves as a good cover crop and it helps to mop up that extra nitrate that’s left after the corn has been harvested,” says John Grabber, a USDA agronomist.

Grabber and his colleagues have been working with interseeding alfalfa into corn for a number of years. The results suggest that alfalfa yields often double in the first year of full production versus first-year alfalfa when it is spring seeded. Typically, alfalfa in its establishment year will yield just 2.5 tons/acre of dry matter. Alfalfa interseeded into corn can typically yield 5 tons/acre in its first full production year.

Runoff rates of soil and nutrients in the corn interseeded with alfalfa are also substantially reduced, with soil losses reduced by more than 80%, nitrogen losses reduced by more than 70% and phosphorus losses reduced 60 to 80%.

But interseeding alfalfa into corn is also prone to failure if a number of steps aren’t taken, he adds.

First, alfalfa, alfalfa must be interseeded immediately after corn planting and no later than the V1 or V2 stage of corn development. Planting the alfalfa later will greatly increase the risk of alfalfa stand failure due to canopy shading from corn. Corn silage harvest must also be done about one to two weeks earlier than normal, which means using an early- to mid-season hybrid, says Grabber.

econd, crop protection products should be used to ensure the alfalfa plant establishes strong roots and isn’t plagued by fungus or insects. Grabber has been using Prohexadione, which limits alfalfa top growth and encourages root development. (It is currently not labeled for use on alfalfa, but there is hope it could be for the 2020 growing season.)

Fungicide and insecticide use also seem particularly important to use under Wisconsin growing conditions. “These plant protection products can really help alfalfa survival and yield the following year,” he says.

Third, some alfalfa varieties seem better adapted to interseeding than others. Those that develop strong root systems early are best, says Grabber.

Fertility is also important because alfalfa will take up some nitrogen during establishment, potentially shortchanging the corn crop. He recommends applying nitrogen at the higher end of recommended rates for corn silage (about 200 lb/a) to ensure that doesn’t happen.

The economics of interseeding alfalfa are positive. That’s assuming a doubling of first-year alfalfa yields, a slight yield drag on corn production and extra agrichemical costs to aid establishment of interseeding alfalfa, he notes. His estimates show that if you get an 80% success rate for establishing interseeded alfalfa with a 5% yield drag on corn, the net return (averaged across all years of the corn-alfalfa rotation)  works out to about $144/a. That compares to a net return of $130/a for a conventional rotation using spring-seeded alfalfa. “So there is the potential to make a little more money with interseeded alfalfa, which is in addition to increased overall forage yield and reduced risk of soil and nutrient loss from cropland,” he says.

But interseeding isn’t all rosy, he acknowledges. If you have an extremely dry spring, the alfalfa will germinate unevenly or compete excessively with corn for soil moisture. Under such conditions, producers should forgo interseeding and instead do a conventional seeding of alfalfa the next spring, he says.

And if you have a wet soils in fall, corn silage harvest can tear up alfalfa stands. “Therefore, interseeding is best suited for cropland with good drainage and will be most successful if producers use corn harvest practices that limit soil compaction and rutting,” Grabber says.

You can view Grabber’s presentation on interseeding alfalfa into corn, presented at World Dairy Expo last fall, here.

10 Tips for a Better Alfalfa Stand

Within a few short months Spring will soon be on our doorsteps. Though snow may still be on the ground and the soil still frozen solid, now is the time to start planning as to how you will plant your new stand of alfalfa.

During the 2020 Leading Dairy Producers Conference held in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., Deborah Samac, a research plant pathologist for the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, gave these 10 tips to help establish a better alfalfa stand in 2020.

1. Plan ahead to avoid herbicide carryover. Even during wet weather it is important to be aware of the slow decay of some herbicides used on previous crops such as soybeans and corn.

Herbicide carryover is more commonly found in fields that were last planted to corn due to their longer herbicide residual period, according to Samac.  Therefore, it is essential to look at herbicide labels to note their herbicide carryover length to avoid stunted alfalfa stands.

2. Select sites with good drainage. Known for not liking wet feet, alfalfa can be prone to seedling diseases if fields do not have adequate soil drainage. When planting fields to alfalfa, Samac suggests steering clear of fields that have heavy amounts of clay to avoid over saturation.

Another step in preventing overly wet fields is examining soil for hardpan, a hardened impervious layer, typically of clay, occurring in or below the soil and impairing drainage and plant growth.

“If you do have soil problems or standing water, be sure to investigate below the surface of the soil to see if drainage is an issue,” Samac says.

3. Test soil and make adjustments. Alfalfa tends to typically yield best when grown in neutral pH soils. Therefore, Samac expresses that it is imperative to test soils to help correct acidic pH levels.

“The reason it’s so important to get a neutral pH is because that is where we get the most availability of nutrients needed for alfalfa health,” Samac says.

4. Control weeds. “You want to try and control weeds during the initial stand establishment, especially anything that is a perennial weed because those are really hard to control one the alfalfa is established,” Samac says.

To help control weeds, Samac suggests using pre-emergent herbicides such as Roundup for its low residual activity, Eptam for annual and perennial grasses or Benefin for the prevention of broadleaf weeds.

5. Prepare a firm seedbed. Because of their small size, alfalfa seeds will dry out easily if they do not have good contact with the soil. However, if they are buried too deep, the plants may have trouble emerging. According to Samac, it is important to disc up a seed bed that will allow the seed to sink approximately a half inch below the soil surface.

6. Select an alfalfa cultivar for your area. When selecting a variety of seed, Samac suggests researching traits such as disease resistance and winter hardiness.

“High quality seed pays off,” Samac says. “You want to make sure that you are picking out the right seed for your area and for your specific needs.”

7. Adjust planter for correct seed depth. According to Samac, the “sweet spot” to plant alfalfa seeds is approximately a half inch deep in order to provide a firm enough seed bed for the plant to establish strong roots.

8. Don’t plant too early. Although alfalfa seedlings are fairly frost resistant, plants that emerge too early are sensitive to diseases when the soil is cold due to having less access to reserves that will allow them to fight back. Samac recommends planting between April 15thto May 15thfor most of the upper Midwest.

9. Recognize disease problems. If plants emerge from the soil and don’t appear to be getting off on the right foot, it is imperative to identify any diseases that may be occurring the field.

“If you suspect your alfalfa stand to be suffering from a disease, it is important to go out and take a variety of samples to identify what specific disease you need to treat for,” Samac says.

10. Control leafhoppers. “There’s about 100 different insects that will actually cause some sort of damage to alfalfa, but there’s relatively few that we really need to control because they cause economic amounts of damage,” Samac says. “Be on the watch for leafhoppers as they are the ones that can really eat into your bottom dollar.

According to Samac, new seedings are particularly susceptible to leafhopper damage. Failure to control the insects while the plant is still young can affect yield persistence in subsequent harvests for several years.

We harvested a lot of dirt this year

Ash in forages is the combination of minerals contained within the plant and soil contamination that is either splashed onto the surface of the plant while in the field or picked up during harvest. Minerals include potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, and iron.

This year’s forage analysis reports are showing more than the usual number of high-ash forages, according to Bill Weiss, Ohio State University Extension dairy nutrition specialist.

Typically, cool-season grasses harvested as hay or silage have about 7 to 9 percent ash, while legumes harvested as hay or silage average 10 to 12 percent ash. There are some outside factors that affect the mineral concentrations. As plants mature, the mineral concentration will decline, but forages grown in soils with high levels of available potassium often have higher mineral concentrations.

“Harvest practices and soil conditions at harvest can increase ash concentrations by 5 to more than 15 percentage points with only small changes occurring in major mineral concentrations,” Weiss explains. “Soil contamination greatly raises concentrations of trace minerals, especially iron, manganese, and aluminum,” he notes.

Weiss sites a study from the University of Delaware that evaluated the mineral composition of corn silage harvested after severe flooding. The study found that normal corn silage had ash levels of about 5 percent, but the samples from the flooded fields had concentrations higher than 20 percent. Iron levels were drastically different, and the concentration of aluminum from the flooded corn was five times higher compared to the normal silage.

The issue with ash

Minerals that are found inside the plant are not the issue, but supplementation should be adjusted based on the mineral concentrations within the forages. High levels of potassium reduce magnesium absorption and increase the risk of grass tetany. In this situation, supplement additional magnesium. Limit the feeding rate of high-potassium forages to dry dairy cows since they raise the risk for milk fever. A high level of sulfur is also an issue and affects copper and selenium absorption. Supplement more of these minerals when feeding high-sulfur diets.

Bigger issues occur from forages when the high concentration of ash is caused by soil contamination. Weiss lists the following negative factors associated with high-ash forages:

1. Since ash has no energy, if everything remains equal but ash concentrations rise overall, energy levels within the forages will be lower.

2. High levels of trace minerals such as iron, copper, and aluminum are toxic to rumen bacteria. This reduces fiber digestibility and in turn reduces the energy value of forages, lowering feed intake.

3. Soil that is high in clay greatly reduces the absorption of copper and zinc, which are both required nutrients for cattle and sheep.

4. High total dietary levels of iron are toxic to animals; however, the iron from soil-contaminated forages is mostly iron oxide and is low in toxicity. For this reason, high iron levels are unlikely to cause direct toxicity to cows. Increasing vitamin E supplementation helps alleviate some of the issues caused by high iron levels.

5. The greatest risk of high-ash forages is ruminal or abomasal impaction. Over time, the soil particles consumed by the animal settle out in the rumen or abomasum and fill up the organ. Eventually, this blocks the passage of digesta. Signs of this include lethargy, inappetence, constipation, and eventually death.

What to do about ash

Weiss notes the first step in evaluating ash is determining whether the ash is inside the plant or from soil contamination. Using iron levels is a good way to determine this.

“Forages with less than about 250 ppm iron usually do not have much soil contamination; but, as iron increases above that level, ash contamination from soil is likely,” Weiss explains. “If your forages have substantial ash concentration and high iron, the forage should be diluted with low-ash feeds and mineral supplementation may need to be modified.”

There still isn’t definitive data on ash, and we still have a lot to learn. Studies have shown effects on animal health but at varying levels. Be cautious about feeding forages with more than 4 to 5 percent additional ash when it comprises most of the total diet. Any forages with more than 13 percent ash caused by soil contamination should be diluted with uncontaminated feeds.