2010 Forage Seasonal Summary

Table of Contents

  1. Alfalfa Winterkill
  2. Newseedings
  3. Disease
  4. First-Cut Yields and Quality
  5. Second, Third and Fourth Cuts
  6. Hay Inventories
  7. Crop Insurance
  8. Pastures
  9. Weather Summary

Alfalfa Winterkill

Unlike 2009, very little alfalfa winterkill was experienced this year, including the higher risk area of the Ottawa Valley. While stands were excellent in many areas, there were some poorer stands that resulted from the previous year's winterkill and disease issues. Dandelions were quite visible in these weaker, lower yielding stands.

New Seedings

As a result of extensive winterkill the spring of 2009, the acreage of new forage seedings was above normal. Excellent seeding conditions in April and early-May provided the opportunity for the timely planting, resulting in good establishment. With lower carry-over inventories of quality forage, there was significant use of cereal-pea mixtures as a companion crop. Some growers experienced challenges getting the companion crop harvested in a timely fashion, but impact on the new seeding was minimal. Late seedings coincided with drier weather, resulting in more variable establishment. Summer seedings completed during optimum seeding dates germinated and established successfully.


Brown root rot (BRR) disease of alfalfa is caused by a fungal pathogen that thrives at cooler soil temperatures, causing dark brown lesions on the tap root, lateral roots and crown. Survey results suggest that BRR is likely a significant and widespread problem in Ontario. Infection of the roots can be detrimental to over-wintering vigour and promote other diseases, winterkill, stand decline and yield loss.

Aphanomyces root rot (ARR) is another fungus disease that may be causing significant yield losses in alfalfa. ARR, a major disease of alfalfa seedlings, also affects mature plants and can dramatically reduce yield and vigour of established stands. Roots of mature alfalfa plants are stunted with reduced secondary roots, root hairs and nodules. Patches of aphanomyces root rot are recognizable in established stands by characteristic oval patches of stunted, yellow plants surrounded by normal vegetation. Race 1 and 2 ARR resistant varieties are commercially available.

First-Cut Yields and Quality

Alfalfa broke dormancy earlier than normal, in late-March to early-April. As a result, forage crop development was initially about 10 - 14 days ahead of normal. Cooler weather in early-May then slowed the accumulation of Growing Degree Days and development of the alfalfa. In mixed alfalfa-grass stands, this resulted in more advanced maturity and increased proportion of the grasses relative to the alfalfa. There were reports of spring black stem, leaf spot and other alfalfa diseases causing yellowing and leaf loss, particularly in heavily lodged stands.

Harvest of first-cut "dairy quality" alfalfa haylage started about May 24th in much of southern Ontario. Harvest weather windows were typically narrow and some forage was harvested past optimum maturity. Forage quality was variable, with some "rocket fuel" haylage produced, as well as some that was lower in analysis than the benchmark 20% CP - 30%, ADF - 40% NDF targets. Some damaged forage was blown back on the fields. Fermentation problems sometimes resulted from situations of high harvest moisture, rain-damage or extended wilting.

Weather conditions for making dry hay without rain damage was challenging in some parts of the province, although much better than 2008 and 2009. Feed analysis results are showing many hay samples with very low crude protein levels. Retail demand and use of baleage plastic wrap and propionic acid have significantly increased in recent years.

Second, Third & Fourth Cuts

Second and third cut yields and quality were quite variable, but some very high quality forage was harvested. The proportion of grass to alfalfa was typically higher than normal. Again, there was some harvest during the Critical Fall Harvest Period. Depending on fall and winter weather conditions, this may increase the risk of alfalfa winterkill. Closely monitor these fields in the spring by digging roots and crowns to assess plant health to determine if remedial action is required.

Hay Inventories

Inventories of good quality hay carried over in the spring of 2010 were lower than normal, but inventories have recovered with the 2010 crop. Inventories of both early-cut, high nutrient quality hay, and "horse quality" hay without rain-damage or mould are much improved.

Crop Insurance

In 2010, the Forage Rainfall Crop Insurance Plan paid $233,000 on 63 claims. Areas affected include parts of the south-west and northern Ontario. This compares to $325,000 paid on 128 claims in 2009, $64,000 on 34 claims in 2008, $5.9 million in 2007 and $2.2 million in 2006. Rainfall data and details of the Program can be viewed at www.agricorp.com/en-ca/Programs/ProductionInsurance/ForageRainfall.


With above average rainfall, pasture conditions were excellent in most areas. Both the "spring flush" and "summer slump" of pasture production were less pronounced. Few pastures required supplementation with stored feed. An increased adoption of rotational grazing practices has resulted in increased forage productivity. Increased sales of portable and temporary fence components and water systems are reported by industry suppliers. These management tools allow the producer to increase forage utilization and provide rest periods for forage regrowth to occur.

For further information, refer to the OMAFRA Forage Website.

Weather Summary

(source: www.weatherinnovations.com/weathersummary.cfm)

Sep 29-Oct 5
Temp. (°C)
Heat Units
Total Since May 1
Windsor 2010


8.2 0 84 574


30 Yr. Avg. 19 8.8 20.7 109 442 3690
London 2010 14.8 6.1 14.9 60 512.5 3429
30 Yr. Avg. 17.3 6.4 21.7 82 446.2 3194
Outdoor Farm Show 2010 14.5 4 20 48 477.2 3160
30 Yr. Avg. 17.5 6.6 19.7 84 460.9 3210
Hamilton 2010 13.9 6.3 23 49 548 3338
30 Yr. Avg. 17.1 6.7 22.1 82 423.6 3235
Elora 2010 14 5.7 3.8 55 553.3 3195
30 Yr. Avg.


6.1 22.9 68 453.4 3018
Mount Forest 2010 14.2 4.9 0.7 52 649.1 3062
30 Yr. Avg. 16.6 5.6


72 446.2 2942
Peterborough 2010 14.5 6.2 1.6 61 409 3113
30 Yr. Avg. 16.5 3.5 19.4 63 391 2872
Trenton 2010 15.2 7.8 28.3 75 441.2 3449
30 Yr. Avg. 16.5 5.5 23.7 70 388 3133
Ottawa 2010 15.1 6.1 16.4 76 546.9 3398
30 Yr. Avg. 15.7 6.4 24.9 69



Technical information can also be obtained at the OMAFRA Field Crops Webpage and Crop Pest Ontario.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca