Agriculture News: Drought conditions not going away anytime soon

By Keenan Bishop Published:

Parts of the county have finally started getting some rain. Some areas more than they could handle and some areas still not enough. The UK Agricultural Weather Center predicts above normal temperatures and normal or below normal precipitation for the month of August,

We are doing better than our counterparts in western Kentucky and many parts of the U.S. as well. I’ve seen corn that pollinated before or after the heat wave that looks like it will make good ears and I’ve seen some that is maybe one-half to three-fourths of to 3/4ths an ear.

There’s also corn that looks good and healthy in the field but once you check the ears its obvious it’s destined for silage or even to return back to the soil as organic matter. Hard to do when you’ve invested time and money into a crop.

Most all of the corn I’ve checked, where the farmer was considering salvaging it for silage, has tested high in nitrates. These levels can be dangerous if consumed by livestock. Ensiling may reduce the levels by around 50 percent but it’s best to check just to be sure. The $15 test fee is cheap insurance. The results will tell you how much you need to dilute it to make it safe for consumption.


I have also had lots of calls about Johnson grass. Being a warm season grass it has done well and responds to the slightest bit of rainfall. You should already be aware that Johnson grass can be dangerous after a frost and even when stressed during a drought.

The general rule of thumb is that when in the wilted stage (due to frost, drought, mowing, etc) is creates prussic acid, which can also poison livestock. What you may not realize is that the young, lush, fast growing grass that is recovering from a drought situation can also be dangerous for the same reasons. Play it safe and give it time to grow out of it and wait until the plant is more mature.

While many may still be dealing with a drought situation it is time to think ahead about fall seeding to fill up those bare spots in the pastures. Late August is the ideal time to begin seeding cool season grasses. Your window of opportunity is available all the way up to early October and even into October for fescue. I’d delay it as long as possible to ensure that there is sufficient and sustainable moisture to nurse the new crop along.


This is also the recommended time to control tall ironweed, which is a common pasture and hay land problem weed. But, as with applying an herbicide to any unwanted plant, the plant needs to be actively growing and not stressed to accept the herbicide. UK Weed Specialist J.D. Green has the following advice for fall ironweed control.

An herbicide-based control program for tall ironweed in grazed pastures may require a 12- to 18- month time period to reduce tall ironweed populations and allow for reestablishment of clover. Tall ironweed control should already be underway by mowing emerged tall ironweed stems.

When plants regrow 10 to 20 inches in height (generally in mid- to late-August) the younger stems and leaves are more conducive for herbicide uptake. In August or by early September apply a pasture herbicide containing either triclopyr (e.g. PastureGard, Crossbow, etc.) or aminopyralid (e.g. ForeFront, etc.) as a broadcast treatment.

Although mid-summer (June and July) treatments can provide control, better herbicide movement to the root system occurs with perennial weeds with late summer applications.

One of the drawbacks to the application of broadleaf pasture herbicides is that they can impact desirable clover stands. Consult the herbicide label of the product used for minimum reseeding intervals for clovers and other desirable forage grasses. Also, observe other precautions prior to application.

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