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COL Use fall tillage with caution

Be site-selective with fall tillage, says Gyles Randall, University of Minnesota Extension soil scientist. For example, avoid tillage on the more erosive parts of fields.

"We're actually seeking more aggressive tillage -- leaving less surface residue -- now than we did 10 years ago in many fields,'' Randall said. "Tillage equipment is being pulled deeper and faster, thus burying more residue, especially if there are disks on the implement.''

A good place to start reducing tillage is on corn ground going into soybeans next year, Randall said. Soybeans can easily be no-tilled or planted in wider rows into standing corn stalks. Fall tillage of soybean ground isn't necessary unless you're incorporating manure or knifing in anhydrous ammonia.

Laboratory manure analysis good idea

Laboratory analysis of manure is an important management tool to use crop nutrients profitably, says Neil Broadwater, Winona County (Minn.) Extension educator.

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Published estimates of average manure nutrients can be misleading for planning appropriate application rates, he said. The nutrients content of manure vary from farm to farm and species to species. Therefore, the only reliable method to determine the nutrient levels in manure is to take a representative sample for laboratory analysis.

A list of Minnesota Department of Agriculture Certified Manure Testing laboratories is available from county Extension offices. After finding one, contact the laboratory for special instructions.

MPCA rules address manure stockpiling

New Minnesota Pollution Control Agency regulations address the issue of stockpiling manure.

Short-term stockpiles are those where manure is stored no more than 12 months and then applied to cropland, says Dave Schwartz, Meeker County (Minn.)-based regional Extension educator in crops. Short-term stockpiles don't need permits nor do they need any type of impermeable base. However, they need to be seeded down to a cover crop for at least one year before the site can be used again for stockpiling manure.

Common sense tells us to select sites for stockpiles that are level -- less than 2 percent slope -- and soils made up of clay that will prohibit leaching, Schwartz said.

Manure should never be stored in abandoned gravel pits or areas with high water tables.

October alfalfa harvest possible

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Farmers who have alfalfa fields with a foot or more of growth in October of a modern, multi-disease resistant variety on good alfalfa soil with adequate potassium should consider harvesting at least older alfalfa stands, says Wayne Schoper, Brown County (Minn.) Extension educator.

Alfalfa stands typically begin to lose yield potential after their third year anyway, so where high quality forage is a priority, concerns about damaging stands more than three years old shouldn't generally weigh heavily in the decision of whether or not to cut in the fall, Schoper said.

If you're conservative or in an area where snow tends to flow off fields with short stubble, you may wish to leave strips of uncut alfalfa to help catch snow, he said.

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