Jeff Graybill

Now is the time to brush up on your crop production expertise.

Each year Penn State Extension hosts over a dozen crop conferences and crops days around the state. They are a great time to brush up on your agronomics, compare yields with the neighbors and consult with your industry suppliers.

Unfortunately, this year we cannot meet face to face; however, if you have access to a computer and an internet connection, you can watch and chat with a host of Penn State Extension specialists.

The 2021 Penn State crops conferences and crops days are being rolled into one informative, interactive, virtual conference.

You have the opportunity to learn about key current crop management issues, with many sessions offering Pennsylvania pesticide, nutrient management and certified crop adviser credits. Over a dozen topics will be presented by your favorite Extension specialists, from whom you can glean a wealth of valuable information.

A sampling of topics:

• Fertility management for high yield wheat, Charlie White

• Better pest management through soil health, Mary Barbercheck

• Burndown tips for weed control and cover crop termination, John Wallace

• 2020 Pennsylvania corn and soybean yield contest winners

• Fungicide timing for maximum effectiveness, Alyssa Collins

• 2021 weather outlook, Kyle Imhoff, Penn State meteorologist

The live virtual conference will be offered 1-3 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday Jan. 26 to 28. Register and attend any or all sessions. There is one registration fee of $15.00 for all three days. Register online at extension.psu.edu/crops-conference-series or call 1-877-345-0691.

Now is the time to welcome Joey Akins, the new Extension educator in Mercer County.

Joseph, who goes by Joey, grew up near Huntsville, Alabama, and received both his B.S. and M.S. degrees in agronomy and soils from Auburn University.

Before starting his master’s program, Joey worked as a field scout in corn, soybean, and cotton fields across northern Alabama and southern Tennessee.

His graduate research focused on the effects of different cover crop species on insect populations in soybeans, cotton and peanuts.

Joey was a teaching assistant for both basic crop and basic soil science at Auburn, and gave a variety of talks at Extension and CCA meetings about cover crops and conservation biological control in the Southeast.

He has also given presentations at the Tri Societies meeting in San Antonio, Texas, and the Southern Branch of the American Society of Agronomy conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

Joey is excited to work with the farmers in Mercer County and hopes to further develop his skill set in the areas of crop production, forage management and soil conservation.

He can be reached at the Mercer County Extension office at 724-662-3141 or by email at joa5422@psu.edu

Now is the time to take action to prevent winter feeding damage.

This section is by Justin Brackenrich, a Penn State Extension field and forage crop educator in Butler County.

During winter feeding, rain and snow are not friends to pastures. Add to that typical 30s at night and 40s in the day, and you can quickly have a big mess on your hands.

If you have a concrete pad or designed winter feeding area, pasture damage concerns can be greatly reduced. If you feed bales outdoors in your pastures, Mother Nature and livestock can quickly leave your pastures battered and in need of repairs before next season. What can you do to avoid some of this damage?

One option for pasture care is to create a sacrifice lot. By designating one area on a farm for use during undesirable weather conditions, this saves the other pastures from getting damaged. Feed your stored feedstuffs only in the designated sacrifice areas during the late fall, winter and early spring — or until your pastures have acquired enough growth in the spring to be grazed.

Along the same lines of designing a sacrifice lot is designing your own feeding pad. This would be a clay or packed area that would function much like a concrete pad allowing for the concentration of manure and urine to be captured in feed waste and a bedding material.

This captured waste can later be used as a nutrient source on the farm rather than running off. If considering this option, make sure it meets nutrient management standards and is away from surface and groundwater sources.

Another option is target feeding. Target feeding is a practice that involves moving livestock “lures” such as hay rings, mineral feeders, or feed bunks to different locations on the farm.

This will entice your animals to different, unpopular locations and keep damage from accumulating in one specific area.

This can help reduce damage and mud accumulation in the heavily traveled and highly popular areas of the sacrifice lot.

A note of caution — this practice works best when the ground is frozen and precipitation is limited. Otherwise, livestock damage to fields will be increased.

Following winter feeding, reseeding severely damaged sacrifice areas or spots with annual forages is an excellent way to optimize forage production in that area while also suppressing weed pressure.

Planting a warm season annual such as sudangrass, sorghum sudan, or pearl millet directly into your sacrifice pasture will allow pasture productivity from an otherwise lower-producing field due to the winter damage it incurred.

Management is not one-size-fits-all and should be tailored to fit your operation. For more information on all these topics, visit extension.psu.edu

Quote of the Week

“I would rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.”

— George Washington

Jeff Graybill, a Penn State Extension agronomy educator in Lancaster County, is filling in for Leon Ressler.