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.

Multi-Species Grazing

Multi-species Grazing: the How and Why for Soil & Animal Health
Online, Wednesday, June 24

Grazing multiple species both in terms of animals and plants offer many benefits to both animals and the soil. Learn about these benefits as well as considerations and helpful tips for implementing multi-species grazing on your property.

This virtual webinar is part of the Webinar Wednesday Forage and Pasture Series, brought to you by

Delaware State University

and the

University of Delaware


➡️ Register by June 23:

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.






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.

Some Thoughts on Halloween Hay

Many regions have now or will soon reach the point when significant alfalfa regrowth won’t occur if the crop is cut one more time. Research has historically shown that cutting when the chances for regrowth are low is safer from a winter injury or kill standpoint than cutting earlier in the fall when regrowth is still possible.

There are three primary reasons why farmers decide to cut alfalfa late in the fall. They are:

1. Don’t want to leave money on the table.

In the case where favorable weather has contributed to significant fall growth, it’s hard to leave an apparent high-yielding, high-quality crop out in the field. However, the reality is that late fall-cut alfalfa is rarely high yielding.

Yes, the crop can sometimes be tall, but the stems are usually small and there are fewer of them. What looks like a high-yield crop usually shrinks to nearly nothing when put into a swath or windrow. This makes for expensive forage when harvest costs are considered.

On the flip side, late fall-cut forage is almost always excellent quality. With the extended cool temperatures, there is low fiber deposition and plant digestibility stays high.

2. It will smother out if not cut.

There’s been a long-held concern by some that fall alfalfa growth will smother and kill a stand over winter. This simply does not happen with a legume such as alfalfa. Rather, leaves freeze and eventually drop off the plant. Stems, for the most part, stand erect. The old, fall aftermath growth may impact forage quality in the next year’s first cutting, but if harvested early enough the reduction in quality is minimal.

3. There’s a need for feed.

Following a year of severe winterkill or drought, sometimes alfalfa is cut in late fall simply to meet a need for additional feed. This may apply to many in 2019.

Is there risk?

Though the risk to cut alfalfa in the late fall has proven to be less than when regrowth potential is high, the practice is not without some downside. Already mentioned is the fact that yields are typically low; they will be even lower if the cutting height is raised as is often recommended for a late-fall cut.

Also consider that fields cut in the late fall generally break dormancy later during the following spring and have a lower first-cut yield compared to not being fall cut. The gain in fall yield is about equal to the loss in spring yield. This is not to say that the fields are winter injured but rather less vigorous come spring.

Leaving the fall aftermath growth over winter is beneficial to not just catching and holding snow cover, but it also has the effect of moderating soil temperature fluctuations during winter and early spring. It is extreme soil temperature fluctuations that may cause alfalfa to break dormancy too early or cause plant heaving.

Finally, consider the condition of the alfalfa stand before taking a late-fall cut. If it’s already been stressed by intensive cutting, pest issues, or low soil fertility, stress from an additional cutting will likely accelerate stand decline.

All factors considered, the need for feed prior to the next year’s harvest may be the only good reason to cut alfalfa in late fall.