Posts Tagged: Alfalfa
A new study that outlines costs and returns of establishing and producing organic alfalfa hay has been released by UC Cooperative Extension, the UC Agricultural Issues Center and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
High-quality organic alfalfa hay is an important ingredient in milk-cow feed rations for organic dairies. Organic dairy farms are required to use organic feed and allow cows to graze for part of their forage. Organic alfalfa hay comprises a major source of forage for the industry.
In 2019, organic dairy farms in California produced about 900 million pounds of milk — just over 2% of California milk output production, according to co-author Daniel Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center and professor in the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
“Demand for organic alfalfa production has grown, including demand from dairy, horse, sheep, goat, and beef producers, but is still a small share of total alfalfa production,” said Daniel Putnam, UC Cooperative Extension forage specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis and co-author of the study. “However, understanding organic production methods and costs is very important for California's organic hay farmers.”
The new study estimates the costs and returns of establishing and producing organic alfalfa using flood irrigation in the Sacramento Valley, north and south San Joaquin Valley, and the Intermountain Region. The 100 acres of organic alfalfa is rented for $345 per acre annually and the alfalfa stand life is four years after the establishment year.
Input and reviews were provided by UCCE farm advisors and specialists and growers. The authors describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for organic alfalfa establishment and production, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead and a ranging analysis table, which shows profits over a range of prices and yields.
“This cost study provides information on how to grow alfalfa hay organically,” said Rachael Long, study co-author and UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Yolo County. “The research that went into developing these practices represents a significant investment by UCCE farm advisors and specialists and California alfalfa farmer collaborators. We are pleased to team up with economics and cost study experts to provide this study, which indicates potential profits in growing this crop for the organic dairy market.”
The new study, “Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Organic Alfalfa Hay, California - 2020” can be downloaded for free from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website: http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu. Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities are also available on the websites.
For an explanation of calculations used in the study, refer to the section titled Assumptions. For more information, contact Jeremy Murdock, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Agricultural Issues Center, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, at (530) 752-4651 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To discuss this study with a local extension advisor, contact the UC Cooperative Extension office in your county: https://ucanr.edu/About/Locations.
“Optimizing Yield and Quality in Irrigated Forages” will be the focus of discussion at the 2019 Western Alfalfa & Forage Symposium. More than 550 people are registered for the symposium, which will be held Nov. 19-21 at the Grand Sierra Hotel in Reno, Nev.
Irrigation management, forage quality and pest management are among the many topics that will be covered at the symposium. The comprehensive program features 62 speakers, 70 exhibitors, student poster sessions and an auction.
This program was organized by Cooperative Extension specialists and farmers from 11 states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
This year we feature several important areas of emphasis: Irrigation Workshop, Pest Management, Systems, Alternative Forages, and a ‘Forage Quality Mini-Symposium' on the last day.
Here are some of the agenda highlights:
Day One – Tuesday, Nov. 19, FORAGE IRRIGATION WORKSHOP: This one-day workshop provides many of the basics of irrigation management for forage crops.
- Importance of Irrigation Management in Forage Crops
- What is ET and How to Measure?
- Soil Moisture Monitoring
- Irrigation Scheduling
- Fertigation and Use of Degraded Waters
- Salinity Management
- Deficit Irrigation of Alfalfa
- Analysis of Sprinkler Systems
- LEPA/LESA and Mobile Drip
- Variable Rate Irrigation
- Surface Irrigation Systems Design
- Automation of Furrow and Flood Irrigation
- Comparing Systems on-Farm
- Drip Irrigation Systems in Alfalfa
- Management of SDI on-Farm
- Innovations from Companies in Irrigation Management
5 p.m.-7 p.m. SYMPOSIUM WELCOME RECEPTION Hors D'oeuvres and No Host Cocktails, Exhibits Open, Posters on Display
Day Two – Wednesday, Nov. 20, MAIN SESSION: ECONOMICS, WATER, PEST MANAGEMENT, FORAGE SYSTEMS & ALTERNATIVE FORAGES: This features an array of topics on the environment, economic trends, pest management and alternative forages.
- Climate Change and Forage Production in Western States
- Alfalfa Rotation Studies with Alfalfa, Small Grains, Corn
- Benefits of Alfalfa in Rotations
- Snake River Aquifer Groundwater Recharge
- Alfalfa for Groundwater Recharge
- Hay Industry Trends
- Western Dairy Trends
- World Trends in Exports
- Key Issues for Hay Exporters
SYMPOSIUM BANQUET LUNCH
- Control of Rodents Using Drones
- Managing Beldings Ground Squirrels
- Managing Weeds in Alfalfa
- Glyphosate Injury in Roundup Ready Alfalfa
- Clover Rood Cuculio
- Insect Resistance in Alfalfa Weevil
- IPM Program for Alfalfa Winter Pests in Deserts
- Sugarcane Aphid and Control Strategies
- Grazing Techniques on 7.2 Million Acres of alfalfa in Argentina
- Simulated Grazing Timing of Annual Cereals
- Optimizing Management of Small grain Forages
- Management of N in Timothy
- Tef as a Forage Crop
- Rhodes Grass as an Alternative Forage
- Corn and Sorghum Forages: Water and N Implications
- Utilization of Sugarbeet as a Forage
5 p.m.-7 p.m. SYMPOSIUM RECEPTION Hors D'oeuvres and No Host Cocktails, Exhibits Open, Posters on Display. 6 p.m. CALIFORNIA ALFALFA & FORAGE ASSOCIATION LIVE AUCTION
Day Three – Thursday, Nov. 21, MAIN SESSION-FORAGE QUALITY MINI-SYMPOSIUM This is an event co-sponsored by the NIRS consortium and the Forage Testing Association
- Linkage of Testing with Markets
- Horse Nutritional Requirements and Testing
- Importance of Fiber and Fiber Digestibility
- Representing the Value of Energy, Protein, and Fiber in Feedstuffs
- Key Hay Sampling Protocols
- How to Choose a High-Quality Testing Lab
- Standardization of Forage Testing and NFTA Certification
- Misconceptions of NIRS Analysis
- Multi-State Analysis of Forage Quality
- Importance of Dry Matter Analysis
- Future of Forage Testing
3 p.m. ADJOURN SYMPOSIUM
See the complete program at https://alfalfa.ucdavis.edu. Register for the program, hotel and exhibitors at http://calhay.org/symposium. Continuing education units will be provided (24 units CCA, 3 units PCA).
The hard work put in every summer by leafcutter bees was spotlighted by KQED Science, which took a Deep Look at an introduced pollinator that makes bountiful alfalfa seed production possible in California.
For facts behind the 'gee whiz' video, KQED turned to Shannon Mueller, UC Cooperative Extension alfalfa advisor emeritus, who helped introduce leafcutter bees in the early 1990s.
What makes leafcutter bees special? It's their innate ability to 'trip' alfalfa flowers, which is beautifully explained and shown - in slow motion - in the Deep Look video.
Cutters were “game changers” in the alfalfa seed business because they're much better at pollinating alfalfa than honeybees, Mueller said. Cutters trip 80 percent of flowers they visit, compared to honeybees, which only trip about 10 percent.
Leafcutting bees pollinate alfalfa, allowing the plants to form seeds. The seeds will be grown to make nutritious hay for dairy cows, giving credit to leafcutter bees' for their labor on the first step to making ice cream.
Across the globe, scientists have shown that birds can be farmer allies. Insectivorous birds feed on damaging insect pests in many crops including coffee, cacao, oil palm, corn, cabbage and apples. Raptors, including hawks and barn owls, feed on rodents, including gophers, voles and mice (see blog, Barn owls help clean up rodents naturally).
Despite this deep historic knowledge that birds are important predators of crop pests, over time the perception of birds as natural enemies of pests has been generally replaced with the idea that birds are often major crop pests themselves. Indeed, some bird species — like some types of insects — can cause trouble for farmers, but many others — especially those that eat insects and rodents — can be beneficial.
Do birds control insect pests on farms in California's Central Valley?
They do! Recent studies by Dr. Sacha Heath, UC Davis, and Rachael Long, field crops and pest management advisor, UC Cooperative Extension, showed that birds help control insect pests in walnut orchards. Dr. Sara Kross (UC Davis postdoctoral alumnus, now with Columbia University) showed that birds help control alfalfa insect pests.
Birds are voracious predators of codling moth pests in walnuts
Codling moth is a major worm-like pest that infests walnuts, apples and pears. The larvae go dormant during winter, living in cocoons in crevices in trees. Adult moths emerge in the spring, lay eggs and infest crops.
We evaluated bird predation of codling moth using “sentinel prey” and exclosure cages. We glued codling moth cocoons to walnut trunks and covered them with cages, allowing insects and spiders to access the cocoons, but not bird predators. This allowed us to count how many larvae were eaten inside and outside of the cages to estimate pest reduction by birds.
What did we find?
Natural enemies, like parasitic wasps and lacewings, alone reduced codling moth larval numbers by 11%; adding birds into the pest control system reduced them by 46%! Nuttall's woodpeckers and white-breasted nuthatches did a lot of the work; these birds travel up and down the trunks of trees, searching for insects.
Above, a white-breasted nuthatch preys on a codling moth larva “sentinel cocoon” on a walnut tree. Video by Sacha Heath.
Alfalfa weevils are no match for insectivorous birds
Alfalfa weevils are key pests of alfalfa, reducing yields and hay quality if left uncontrolled. Dr. Sara Kross looked at bird predation of this pest by excluding birds from alfalfa plants via cages, and counting the number of weevils inside and outside the cages. She found that birds reduced the number of weevils by more than 30%, showing their importance in helping to protect alfalfa from this serious pest.
Does field edge habitat, like hedgerows, help attract beneficial birds?
Yes! Hedgerows are important habitat for beneficial birds, serving as nesting, foraging and roosting sites. In a study in the Sacramento Valley, crop margins with hedgerows, tree lines and riparian buffers harbored up to six times more birds and up to three times more bird species than bare or weedy margins.
Walnut orchards adjacent to hedgerows and riparian areas had higher numbers of beneficial birds along with more species. In alfalfa, there were more beneficial birds in fields when at least two tall trees were present along the field edges. More beneficial birds were associated with better pest control, that is, fewer codling moth cocoons and alfalfa weevils.
Birds have large territories, fly long distances, and are influenced by what happens on the farm as well as by what happens in the landscape around the farm. For example, we found that codling moth predation by birds greatly increased in walnut orchards as the amount of habitat in the landscape around the orchards increased (including hedgerows, tree lines, riparian and oak woodlands, and grasslands).
Will hedgerows increase the numbers of pest birds?
Pest birds are present on farms regardless of field edge habitat (such as weedy vegetation or hedgerows). Cases will be different, depending on the crop, but in the fields and orchards of Yolo County, researcher Hillary White (formerly with UCCE and now with U.S. Fish and Wildlife) found that three of the most common avian crop pests (American crow, red-winged blackbird and Brewer's blackbird), were up to 10 times more abundant in agricultural fields with bare or weedy margins than in fields with hedgerows.
What can I do to attract beneficial birds to my farm?
Our avian research team has been quantifying the conditions under which birds are helpful or harmful to growers. We are looking for ways to help farmers create bird habitat on their farms to harness the beneficial pest control services birds can provide, while also protecting crops from the damaging effects of some bird species. This information is available in the new publication “Supporting Beneficial Birds and Managing Pest Birds,” co-authored by the Wild Farm Alliance and Drs. Kross and Heath, and technically advised by UC Cooperative Extension and several farmers. This is a user-friendly guide for farmers and conservation practitioners, with the goal of co-managing farmlands for biodiversity and farming.
A white-breasted nuthatch preys on a codling moth larva “sentinel cocoon” on a walnut tree. (Video still: Sacha Heath)
Because periodic droughts will always be a part of life in California, the UC California Institute for Water Resources (CIWR) produced a series of videos to maintain drought awareness and planning, even in years when water is more abundant.
The final video of the three-part series, which focuses on drought strategies for citrus, was launched April 6 on the UCTV Sustainable California channel. The first episode, which centered on alfalfa production, premiered Feb. 2 on the UCTV Sustainable California channel. The second video, on almonds, was launched March 2 on Sustainable California. A trailer with clips from all three episodes is here.
The videos are inspired by a collection of 19 drought tips produced by CIWR in collaboration with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers during the drought of 2010-16. The tips cover a broad spectrum of California crops, from alfalfa to walnuts. Topics also include salt management, use of graywater in urban landscapes, and the use of shallow groundwater for crop production.
The drought tips collection and the drought tip videos were sponsored by the California Department of Water Resources. Following are links to each of the videos:
The CIWR drought tip series opens with Cannon Michael of Bowles Farming in Los Banos. The alfalfa grower works with UCCE specialist Dan Putnam. “There's a lot of misunderstanding about alfalfa as a crop,” Michael said. “It does take water to grow it, as with anything, but you get multiple harvests of it every year.”
The second episode features almond producer Raj of Meena farms. He works with David Doll, UCCE advisor in Merced County. “One positive of this drought,” Meena said, “is that it has forced us all to be more efficient in how we use our water.”
The series finale features Lisa Brenneis of Churchill-Brenneis Orchard in the Ojai Valley of Ventura County. She worked with UCCE advisor Ben Faber to install a new water-efficient irrigation system. “Irrigation is the only job we really have to do,” Brenneis said, “and we have to get it as right as we can.”
For a complete list of drought tips, see http://ucanr.edu/drought-tips.