Struggling Double-crop Soybeans Could be Valuable Forage

Another of Indiana’s 2012 crops could get into trouble yet this year but it could mean a forage option for livestock producers. Purdue University Extension forage specialist Keith Johnson says many double-crop soybeans will struggle to reach maturity before the first killing freeze.

Johnson says the problems started with early wheat harvest and the dry spring.

“The dry season discouraged the germination and the growth of these soybean plants. They were seeded timely but in waiting to grow didn’t do so until moisture was received. As a result, with that later than ideal start, we have a crop that could be vulnerable to a killing freeze, and ultimately that’s going to happen at some point in time. So the question is will they get to grain or not. That’s a matter of whether and when the freeze does occur.”

Johnson says these crops do have value as forage at the proper stage of maturity and should be harvested as a forage before green leaves begin to yellow. But farmers also need to check pesticide labels before harvesting soybeans as forage.

“Most of the soybean crop probably did receive some application of pesticide and it’s very, very critical before the soybean would be harvested as a forage that we check the label of the different herbicides, miticides and fungicides to look at the harvest restrictions associated with their use, and also to check whether the soybean can be harvested as a forage at all.”

The recommendation is to harvest and ensile the crop rather than harvesting it as hay. That reduces the loss of leaves, which are the highest feed-quality part of the plant. It also lessens the likelihood of rain damage because the crop can be harvested as silage more quickly after cutting it as compared to making the soybean plant as hay.

Ensiling the soybeans also helps animals utilize all parts of the plant and lessens feed waste.

“If chopped and ensiled, livestock will be less likely to sort out the lower quality stem, as compared to when soybeans are made and fed as long-stemmed hay,” Johnson said.

Grazing soybean fields also can be an option, but it is more management-intensive and comes with risks.

“In my opinion, grazing soybean forage is risky because it is difficult to control selective grazing of immature grain,” Johnson said. “Founder and off-feed problems could result if over-consumption of the seed occurs.”

Double-crop soybean growers who don’t produce livestock still might have opportunities to sell the ailing crop to local livestock producers. Pricing is driven by current alfalfa prices and the soybean crop’s forage quality, and will depend on who provides the labor and equipment to harvest the crop.

“If the livestock producer is harvesting the crop, the soybean grower would need to subtract out the harvest custom rates from the value of the forage,” Johnson said.

Growers in much of the southern part of Indiana are eligible to carry crop insurance on their double-crop soybeans. Those who do will need to check with their insurance agents to get clearance before cutting the crop for forage.

The challenge, Johnson said, will be to know when the first killing freeze will happen.

“We don’t know when that killing freeze will occur until maybe three days beforehand, so it’s important for growers to alert their crop insurance agents early if they are considering this option,” he said.[audio:|titles=Double crop beans as forage]

Source: Purdue Ag Communications

Recommended Posts