Many farms and land owners make  the decision to dry up ground for multiple reasons.  Perhaps prices were down, or the farmer wanted to concentrate on better ground, there are many reasons to dry up ground temporarily but when it is time to get the ground back into production there are some issues to address to ensure a strong, healthy hay stand.

I am doing some custom field work putting dry acres back into production this spring.   I will do the tillage and plant oat hay as a cover crop and then Alfalfa in the fall.  The field has wheel lines and has been dry for over three years.  Currently it looks like an ugly mess of dry mustard, tumble weeds, as well as some hardy grass that managed to eke enough water out of the dry sand to survive.  Here is a list of my top concerns as I approach putting this field back into production:

  • I know that as soon as the soil is irrigated, all the weed seed will sprout.  The oats will grow vigorously in the cool spring and should choke out most of the weeds.  Any skips or areas where the seed sprouts poorly, the weeds will overtake and be a problem.
  • One benefit of the dry sandy soil is that there is no compaction out in the field, but I will have to make sure I do my tillage work without adding any compaction.
  • The soil tested very poor, there is hardly any residual nitrogen or other nutrients. I am going to gamble and not put down much P or K in order to save some fertilizer costs.  However I will put down quite a bit of N for the oats and then I will put down P, K, and some sulfur in the fall for the new seeding Alfalfa.
  • Although in my case I will not be irrigating, one thing to think about is the irrigation system.  If the mainline and pipes have been sitting for multiple years, you might as well count on replacing all the gaskets and some sprinklers. it often takes a week or so to iron out all the kinks.
  • The borders and fence lines of this field is covered in weeds, so I will burn as much as I can safely and disk areas that are too dry to burn safely.  Those weeds could potentially ruin the Alfalfa next year, so controlling them this year will be a high priority.

Right now is a prime time to get that dry field back into production with prices the way they are. Get on the ball early and get control of those pesky weeds and you will have a clean, green field in no time!

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