As July heads down the home stretch and we approach August, there are a few items that come up for consideration, especially from a forage production standpoint.
Corn maturity is all over the place this year, but the earliest planted fields are starting to tassel and silk. The general rule of thumb for fields that will be harvested as dry grain is to be silking by Aug. 1. Many, many fields won't hit that checkpoint in 2013. Then again, many of those fields are targeted for silage harvest.
Generally speaking, corn will reach half kernel milk (silage stage) about 42-47 days after silking. It takes about 55-60 days to reach physiological maturity (black layer). Corn that tassels anytime through the first three weeks of August should reach normal silage harvest stage without a problem. After that, Mother Nature will need to be your friend.
The beginning of August marks the end of planting corn as strictly a forage crop. Now the focus needs to shift to spring cereal grains. There have been two major research efforts looking at fall-grown cereal grains in Wisconsin and both have concluded that oats provide the best alternative when yield and quality are considered.
Most recently, Wayne Coblentz at the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center compared oats, winter wheat, and triticale as possible fall forage sources. Oats provided significantly more yield than either the winter wheat or triticale.
A comparison was also made of several oat varieties. The earlier maturing Ogle provided more dry matter yield than the later maturing Drumlin, Vista or ForagePlus when planted in the first half of August. Ogle is actually considered a mid-maturity oat being similar to Excel, Esker, and Kame varieties. Extremely early and extremely late maturing oat varieties should be considered only when planting dates are earlier or later than the Aug. 1-15 time period. For example, ForagePlus might be the best option for a mid- to late-July planting date.
In a 1990's study done at both Arlington and Marshfield, spring barley was included and yielded slightly less than oats but significantly more than spring triticale or the winter grains.
Harvest late-summer seeded cereals in the late boot/early heading stage (generally late October). Oat plant tissue is very tolerant to freezing.