Ag Connection
Your link to the Universities for ag extension and research information

This Month in Ag Connection
Alfalfa Research Favors Lower Seeding Rates
Evaluating the Alfalfa Stand
1996 Results of Commercial Ag Alfalfa Trials
Post Year-End Tax Planning
Luxury Consumption
Finding the Price of Hay
February 1997
Volume 3, Number 2

Ag Connection - Other Issues Online

Publishing Information
Ag Connection is published monthly for Central Missouri Region producers and is supported by University Extension, the Commercial Agriculture program, the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, UM-Columbia. Editorial board: Maryann Redelfs, Managing Editor; Parman Green, James Rogers, Mark Stewart, Melvin Brees, Don Day and Ron Alexander.

Comments or Suggestions?
Please send your comments and suggestions to Maryann Redelfs, Agronomy/Information Technology Specialist, University Outreach and Extension, 608 E. Spring Street, Boonville, MO 65233, call 660-882-5661, or send messages by e-mail to:

To send a message to an author, click on the author's name at the end of an article.

Alfalfa Research Favors Lower Seeding Rates

Alfalfa is one of the most important and nutritious forage crops grown in Missouri. However, establishing a new alfalfa stand can be very expensive ($125-$150/acre). Therefore, anything you can do to increase stand life or reduce establishment costs would help reduce average annual costs.

Current Missouri recommended seeding rates for a pure stand of alfalfa are 15-20 pounds/acre. This seeding rate should provide 75-100 seeds/square foot, since each pound of seed planted/acre provides about 5 seeds/square foot. Seeding rates that establish 20 to 30 plants/square foot in the seeding year should be sufficient. Thereafter, the stand will decrease in plant density, rapidly at first as self-thinning occurs until, about 6 plants/square foot remain, generally about three years later. When stand density falls below 3 plants/square foot, less than maximum yields can be expected.

Hansen and Krueger (1973) in South Dakota, and Van Keuren (1973) in Ohio, found that alfalfa seeding rates above 8 and 6 pounds/acre, respectively, did not increase forage yield. Similarly, Hall in Pennsylvania found no justifiable reason to increase seeding rates above 9 pounds/acre. Could current Missouri seeding rate recommendations be too high?

To help answer this question Dr. C. J. "Jerry" Nelson and Richard Mattas at UMC initiated a seeding rate study in 1994, repeated in 1995, using seeding rates over a range of 3 to 22 pounds/acre with three varieties (Alfagraze, Cody, and Pioneer 5373). The silt-loam alluvial soil had a pH of 6.4 and was fertilized with phosphate and potash to meet the soil test recommendations. Eptam was incorporated to control weeds. Insects were controlled in both the seeding and succeeding years. They evaluated the yield in the seeding and subsequent year, and followed the decrease in plant density.

Results were identical to those in Pennsylvania. A yield response to higher seeding rates occurred in the first harvest after the spring seeding, but not thereafter except for the 3 pound/acre seeding rate, which was lower than the others. Plants at low density produced more stems/plant to maintain yield.

The data show that, with good seeding management, seeding rates as low as 6 pounds/acre may produce acceptable stands, whereas 9 pounds/acre would give added assurance.

Reducing the seeding rate to 9 pounds/acre reduces establishment costs by $18-$33/acre using $3/pound seed. Part of these savings could be used to help insure an excellent seedbed, additional weed control, and other factors that could favorably influence germination and establishment. This experiment will be repeated again in 1997. The effects of seeding rate on long-term persistence need to be determined.

Author: Marion Gentry, Agronomy Specialist, Source: C. J. Nelson, Professor of Agronomy, UMC

[This Month in Ag Connection] [Ag Connection - Other Issues Online]

Evaluating the Alfalfa Stand

Evaluate alfalfa stand density (plants/square foot) in late March and early April. Make a one foot square out of wire or wood. Drop the square randomly in 10 to 15 places to get an average count. All healthy plants with half or more of their crown located inside the square should be counted. Stands that are three years old or more will be productive with at least three plants/square foot.

Stem density is measured by counting the number of stems within the square. Do this soon after harvest so you will know which cut stems were productive. It is best to know this after the September harvest and compare it with late March after winter kill and plant heaving. Plants heaved more than one inch will likely die during the year. As plants get older, the diameter and weight of the stems increase. Forty stems/square foot are usually adequate during the first three years and 30 stems/square foot are adequate for older stands.

Author: Marion Gentry, Agronomy Specialist

[This Month in Ag Connection] [Ag Connection - Other Issues Online]

1996 Results of Commercial Ag Alfalfa Trials

For this data, each variety is grown on a 6-acre plot. These University Extension Commercial Agriculture demonstration plots are located on the Melvin Keehart farm near Miami, MO. Melvin weighs all of the hay produced on these alfalfa plots.

Soil is tested at least once every four years and has tested high in pH, phosphate and potassium. Maintenance P and K are added annually depending on production.

- - - - - - - Dry Matter Basis - - - - - - -
Variety Planted Cutting
Pioneer 5454 Spring 1994 6-13-96 1.34 16.3 39.9 47.8 57.1 0.58 112.5
7-15-96 0.86 13.1 34.9 41.7 62.7 0.64 137.7
8-27-96 0.88 16.9 39.6 46.1 57.4 0.59 117.1
Total 3.08
Northrup King Multi-King 1 Spring 1994 6-13-96 1.53 18.4 39.2 47.3 57.8 0.59 114.7
7-15-96 0.93 13.9 32.9 37.6 65.0 0.67 156.6
8-27-96 0.97 17.8 37.5 43.8 59.8 0.61 126.6
Total 3.43
Waterman-Loomis 323 Spring 1994 6-13-96 1.67 17.6 41.0 48.7 55.8 0.57 108.8
7-15-96 1.17 13.6 35.6 40.9 62.0 0.64 139.2
8-27-96 1.20 17.5 36.9 43.7 60.5 0.62 128.2
Total 4.04
Dekalb 133 Fall 1994 6-14-96 1.75 16.2 41.3 48.5 55.5 0.56 109.0
7-16-96 1.33 15.2 34.0 41.0 63.8 0.66 141.4
9-03-96 1.05 17.7 39.2 50.4 57.8 0.59 107.7
Total 4.13
AgriPro Dominator Fall 1994 6-14-96 1.66 16.1 41.5 47.3 55.3 0.56 111.3
7-16-96 1.37 14.6 35.2 42.7 62.4 0.64 134.0
9-03-96 1.18 18.1 35.0 46.0 62.7 0.64 124.8
Total 4.21
Dekalb 225 Fall 1994 6-14-96 1.86 15.7 41.4 47.5 55.3 0.56 111.0
7-16-96 1.24 13.3 34.3 40.9 63.4 0.65 141.4
9-03-96 1.16 18.3 36.5 45.1 60.9 0.62 124.6
Total 4.26
Northrup King Rushmore Spring 1996 6-28-96 1.54 18.2 32.1 38.0 65.9 0.68 156.2
8-08-96 1.00 21.0 33.4 39.4 64.4 0.66 148.4
9-07-96 1.03 21.3 33.8 41.4 64.0 0.66 140.5
Total 3.57
AgriPro Depend Spring 1996 6-28-96 1.78 17.5 33.7 40.4 64.1 0.66 144.2
8-08-96 1.13 20.9 32.3 40.7 65.7 0.68 145.5
9-07-96 1.04 21.9 32.5 40.2 65.5 0.68 147.0
Total 4.03
Waterman-Loomis 252 Spring 1996 6-28-96 1.58 16.7 34.4 44.6 63.4 0.65 129.5
8-08-96 1.13 20.9 32.8 40.2 65.2 0.67 146.7
9-07-96 1.02 22.2 32.1 40.0 66.0 0.68 148.4
Total 3.73
Northrup King Rainier Spring 1996 7-03-96 2.05 15.3 34.1 41.4 63.6 0.65 140.1
8-21-96* 1.06 16.7 41.1 54.7 55.7 0.57 96.8
9-13-96 - - - - - -This cutting was lost due to excessive rainfall.- - - - - -
Total 3.11
Waterman-Loomis 325 Spring 1996 7-03-96 2.14 15.6 33.7 40.4 64.2 0.66 144.3
8-21-96* 1.00 17.4 40.5 56.0 56.4 0.57 95.3
9-13-96 - - - - - -This cutting was lost due to excessive rainfall.- - - - - -
Total 3.14
AgriPro Dominator Spring 1996 7-03-96 1.93 14.1 33.5 41.7 64.4 0.66 140.2
8-21-96* 0.78 16.7 40.8 56.5 56.0 0.57 94.0
9-13-96 - - - - - -This cutting was lost due to excessive rainfall.- - - - - -
Total 2.71

ADF = Acid Detergent Fiber
NDF = Neutral Detergent Fiber
TDN = Total Digestible Nutrients
NEL = Net Energy for Lactation
RFV = Relative Feed Value
* = Received in excess of 2" rainfall during the curing process.

Author: Ron Alexander, Agronomy Specialist and Dale Watson, Livestock Specialist

[This Month in Ag Connection] [Ag Connection - Other Issues Online]

Post Year-End Tax Planning

Even though most of us have "closed the books" for the 1996 tax year, several options are still available to do some substantial income tax planning for 1996. Up to the due date of the tax return, the following are some of the tax provisions farmers may want to consider to adjust their 1996 taxable income.

First - consider electing Code Section 179, a tax provision which allows for the expensing of certain capital assets acquired during 1996, up to a maximum of $17,500. In general, qualifying Section 179 property is defined as business assets with a useful life of three or more years and that are: 1) tangible personal property; 2) livestock - other than horses, or 3) single purpose agricultural or horticultural structures.

Second - the depreciation deduction on 1996 purchases can be adjusted substantially by utilizing the 150% declining balance method versus the straight-line method or by using the accelerated depreciation recovery period versus the extended alternative MACRS life. While the method and life of depreciation along with whether to elect the Section 179 deduction is a timing of deduction decisions, the elections can have a substantial impact on tax liability for a particular year. For example, the allowable depreciation and/or Section 179 deductions vary from a high of $21,516 to a low of $2,750 on a $55,000 piece of farm machinery purchased any time during the first 3 quarters of 1996 (assumes half-year depreciation convention).

A word of caution - to qualify for depreciation and Section 179 in 1996, the capital assets must have been placed in service during 1996. That is, delivered to your place of business and in a condition of readiness. Dealerships frequently finalize sales at the end of the year with delivery scheduled for the next year. These assets will be considered placed in service and qualify for depreciation and Section 179 deductions in the year of delivery.

Third - individual retirement accounts (IRAs) for 1996 can be established and funded up to the due date for the tax return (not including extensions). For most people, this means that IRA contributions for 1996 must be made by April 15, 1997. In general, contribution amounts are limited based on earned income up to a maximum deduction of $2,000 on single returns, $2,250 on spousal IRAs, or $4,000 on joint returns if each spouse has earned income of $2,000 or more.

Additional retirement vehicles for which 1996 deductible contributions can still be made are simplified employee pensions (SEP) and keogh plans. A SEP is the only type of employer-sponsored plan that can be established after the employer's tax year has ended. 1996 contributions to SEPs and keogh plans can be made up to the due date of the 1996 income tax return plus extensions.

Fourth - cash method taxpayers may be able to elect to postpone the income recognition of crop disaster and crop insurance proceeds in the year the crops were damaged. This provision may be elected if the taxpayer can show that the income from damaged crops would have normally been reported in any tax year following the year the crops were damaged. Revenue Ruling 74-145 suggests that if 50% or more of all your crops are sold in the year following harvest, that all of the crop disaster and insurance proceeds can be postponed until the following year. However, this also serves as a reminder to those taxpayers who postponed income from 1995, 1996 is the year to pay the piper.

For information on agricultural taxation, farmers are encouraged to obtain IRS Publication 225, "Farmers Tax Guide." This is a free publication and can be obtained by calling the IRS at 1-800-TAX-FORM or by contacting your local University Extension office or you can download the guide from the Internet at

Author: Parman Green, Farm Management Specialist

[This Month in Ag Connection] [Ag Connection - Other Issues Online]

Luxury Consumption

Have you ever consumed more food than you needed? The same tendency occurs with plants in the absorption of some nutrients in excess of crop production requirements. This is called luxury consumption and can happen particularly with potassium (K) and phosphorous (P). A report in the Fifth Edition of "Forages - Volume II," published by Iowa State University Press in 1995, indicates plant levels of around 2%-3% K are usually adequate for forages such as alfalfa, ladino clover, orchard grass, and smooth bromegrasss, yet it is not unusual to find plant levels of 3.5%-4.5% potassium in forage analysis.

Early research identified the concept of luxury consumption. Researcher, P. Macy, in 1936 reported that in a normal nutrient plant-tissue range, added increments of a nutrient, phosphate for example, increased yield but not the nutrient level in the plant tissue. In the poverty nutrient range, added increments of the nutrient increased both yield and tissue nutrient percentages. While within the excess (luxury) nutrient range, added increments of the nutrient had little effect on yield, but increased the tissue composition percentage of the nutrient.

Ron Alexander, Extension agronomist, suggests luxury consumption also exhibits seasonal trends, particularly with regard to alfalfa, an aggressive feeder. During the early spring months, alfalfa consumes excessive nutrients if they are available. Hence the recommendation to delay fertilizing alfalfa until after the first cutting.

Due to variation in nutrient up-take, forage analysis is an excellent tool for estimating the nutrients removed by harvested forages.

Author: Parman R. Green, Farm Management Specialist

[This Month in Ag Connection] [Ag Connection - Other Issues Online]

Finding the Price of Hay

Hay prices are often hard to determine. Pricing information can be obtained from the Internet from the following sites.

The Ag Electronic Bulletin Board (AgEBB) has a hay directory with both a sellers list and a buyers list. AgEBB can be accessed by dialing (573) 882-8289 with your computer modem. Modem settings should be: parity none, data bits 8, stop bits 1. Look for the hay directory under the market listings.

Internet sites for hay pricing and listing include:

Missouri Department of Agriculture Weekly Hay Summary

Michigan State University

Penn State University Forages

Purdue University

The Internet Hay Exchange

The Forage Information System at Oregon State University

The next two sites are commercial sites so you can expect some advertising, but they link to some valuable information.

The Morgan Research Group has weekly hay prices, outlook and forecast reports, and articles on hay.

The Hay Market lists hay for sale. It also has links to other resources on hay.

Author: Don Day, Agricultural Engineering/Information Technology Specialist

[This Month in Ag Connection] [Ag Connection - Other Issues Online]

University ExtensionAg Connection - February 1997 -- Revised: February 17, 1997