Planning urged for crop year's seed needs

Ray Mueller
La Crosse Seed, in business since 1919 and now owned by the Danish firm DLF, carries only the seeds for cover crops, small grains, and forages like this peas and oats mixture.

NEWTON – “Have a plan” for seed needs during the 2020 growing season because some supplies might soon be tight was the advice from Bryan Decker, northeast area sales representative for La Crosse Seed to attendees at the Manitowoc County Forage Council's annual meeting and program.

Decker noted that La Crosse Seed, in business since 1919 and now owned by the Danish firm DLF, carries only the seeds for small grains, forages, cover crops, turf grass, food plots, and native grasses and wildflowers – no corn or soybeans. By late winter, across the industry, but not so much at La Crosse Seed, supplies are tight or could soon be, he cautioned.

One exception is oats, for which La Crosse still had only a limited supply and not a full choice of varieties, Decker pointed out. He also mentioned an increase in orders for peas mixed with one or more small grains. The company was able to obtain supplies of them from Canada in 2019, he noted.

Bryan Decker

For the relatively few farms which were able to establish winter wheat or cereal rye in the fall of 2019 for a harvest this spring, Decker suggested immediate orders for the summer annual follow-up crops intended for a July or August harvest. He noted that La Crosse still had a fairly good supply but some other companies do not.

Sorghum-Sudan Strategies

Sorghum-sudan varieties should probably be ordered by May 20 to assure a supply, Decker indicated. Because of its long growing season, a forage sorghum should be seeded by early June, he noted.

When cutting sorghum-sudan, except for the newer dwarf variety which can be cut lower, leave a minimum stubble of 5 to 6 inches to allow for regrowth, Decker advised. To reduce the sorghum-sudan moisture in a heavy yield to the 65 to 70 percent that is appropriate for ensiling and storage, consider crimping and lay it in wide swaths for field drying, he said.

Decker pointed out that a frosting doesn't greatly reduce the moisture in sorghum-sudan because most of it is in the stems, that any Prussic acid which developed after a freeze will be diluted during fermentation, and that a test for nitrates is appropriate if growing conditions were far from ideal. Any overly wet forages now in storage need to be fed soon, he stated.

Because of its long growing season, a forage sorghum should be seeded by early June.

Alfalfa Rescue Interseeding

On the alfalfa fields where stand survival proves to be a problem this spring, Decker advises a plan based on the remaining longevity, the management options, what the feeding needs are, and what the seeding method would be.

Although it was too early to draw any conclusions, the three alfalfa plants from third or fourth year stands that were extracted from frozen ground in early February in Manitowoc County all exhibited healthy grow at a height of up to 10 inches in a display at the meeting. It was noted that winter injury and plant death, including lots of it in 2019, occurred in late winter and early spring.

If it's to be the last year of the alfalfa, then an interseeding with the fast-growing Italian ryegrass would be a top choice because it tends to be a one-year crop, Decker stated. He reported that Italian ryegrass seed supply is already tight industry-wide but that La Crosse still has some.

Frost seeding, which should be done in March or early April, is an option that doesn't always succeed, Decker observed. Among the top choices for frost seeding are the tall white clover Legacy variety and top quality red clovers while festulolium is a good choice in older alfalfa stands that are receding, according to Steve Hoffman of InDepth Agronomy.

Among the dozen or more forages that could be grown in an alfalfa stand, Decker explained that their suitability is linked to when the forage heads. On that point, he noted that most orchardgrass varieties head early while timothy heads later.

A field planted with forage oats.

Variety Breeding Goals

As the interest in grass varieties tends to grow, Decker said a goal of plant breeders is to move some of the meadow fescue traits into other grasses. He noted that meadow and tall fescue are slower growers than Italian ryegrass and the festulolium varieties, which are crossings of Italian and perennial ryegrass and tall and meadow fescue. Festulolium can have a stand life of two or three years, he indicated.

To reach La Crosse, send an e-mail to or to Decker at The website is and the phone number is (800) 356-7333.