(July 10, 2014) — Despite some nice spring rains over much of the state, the long-term forecast calls for dry conditions to continue, especially as we head into what are traditionally the driest months of the year. Larry Redmon, a forage specialist with Texas AgriLife Extension, compares the spring rains to a football move.
“Anybody here a football fan?” Redmon asked a crowd of farmers at the annual Stiles Farm Field Day. “You know what a head-fake is, right? Sometimes Mother Nature will throw you a head fake. But forewarned is forearmed. The long-rage forecast through August 31 is for most of the state to be in a drought, except for Northeast Texas.”
Thus, his message to producers hasn’t changed.
“You can’t grow grass without water,” he said. “But with good pasture management you can grow twice the grass with half the rain as someone who doesn’t manage their forages for a drought.”
Even when the forecast doesn’t call for a drought, Redmon suggests managing for one anyway. He continues to preach the gospel of soil testing, especially for Bermuda grass pastures, which have to be fertilized to grow. Fertilizer isn’t cheap, and an expanding world market keeps the cost elevated.
“I know it’s cheaper than it was in 2008, but it’s still triple what it was 10 years ago,” Redmon said. “Now you have China, India and Brazil buying a lot of fertilizer. There is a worldwide demand, and that’s going to keep prices high. You just can’t afford to put out more fertilizer than you need, and you don’t know what you need unless you do a soil test,” he said.
Nor can producers afford to overgraze or overstock their pastures. The general grazing rule of “take half, leave half” still holds true and is one of those practices that Redmon recommends any time, not just during a drought.
“If you take more than 50 percent of the plant, it affects the amount of green leaf and the roots,” he said. “The grass has a hard time growing back if there is not a certain amount of photosynthesis taking place.”
The grass also has a hard time growing back if grasshoppers invade a pasture because grasshoppers are the original overgrazers. They can take 30 to 60 percent of the green leaves in a pasture, and during especially bad outbreaks they can take all the green leaf and leave a pasture barren. Fall army worms can do the same thing.
In the good news department, Redmon touted a new product for grasshoppers. Prevathon, a DuPont product, has no “signal word” on its label. Signal words on a label range from “Danger,” for the products with the highest risk of toxicity, to “Warning” to “Caution.” Prevathon, Redmon said, is the first pesticide with no signal word. It’s harmless to people and animals but cruel and effective on grasshoppers.
“What it does is it paralyzes the grasshopper’s jaw to where it can’t move them to eat. It starves to death,” Redmon said. “You might go out in the field a day or two after you’ve sprayed it and see a lot of grasshoppers still moving around, but they’re not eating anything. They eventually starve to death.”
And if the grasshoppers are starving, there’s less of a chance that the cows will go hungry.
For Redmon, it’s all about keeping grass in the pasture, drought or no drought.