Following the first killing freeze of the season, Kansas State University experts are providing their tips for crop management. The first hard freeze occurred on October 15, and the timing of the last cutting can impact the productivity of the stand in the following year, note the experts.
For starters, producers should be prepared to enter the fields as soon as soil moisture conditions allow. After a killing freeze, remaining forage can be hayed before leaves drop off.
At this stage of the growing season, alfalfa plants, in particular, need to store enough carbohydrates to survive the winter. The last cutting prior to fall dormancy needs to be made based on expected crown regrowth, rather than one-tenth bloom. By timing it correctly, there will be enough time left over for the replenishment of root reserves.
For producers in northern areas of Kansas, late September is typically the target date for the final cutting before dormancy. The first week of October is usually the cutoff date for southeast Kansas. Seeing as this date has passed and a killing freeze has already occurred, K-State experts say that producers should be ready to perform the last cut as soon as conditions allow for fieldwork.
The experts also note that this time of year is ideal for soil sampling. Key soil tests for vitamins and minerals, including phosphorus and potassium, can ensure that the soil is prepped adequately for the following growing season.
More information on planning the last cutting for this fall can be found on the Kansas State University extension website.