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Agronomic Crops Network

Ohio State University Extension


Forage Maturity Across Ohio

Many forage fields were harvested this past week with many more to be harvested this week with the excellent weather ahead. This past week alfalfa fields grew 6-10 inches but didn’t rapidly progress through the maturity growth stages.  In general alfalfa varieties with lower fall dormancy ratings will be smaller and slower growing in the spring.  With the continuing maturity of forages and insect pressure from alfalfa weevil and armyworm, harvest may be the best option instead of insecticide application. Much of the forage grasses across the state are now headed-reducing digestibility and crude protein. In Ottawa County, the farthest north county in our survey, orchard grass is fully headed and Timothy and Festolium are both in the boot stage, which is at the balancing point between maximum tonnage and quality. The alfalfa in Ottawa County is at 30-50% bud and will probably begin to flower late this week or next. Mowing more forage than you can harvest each day carries more risk of quality decline most years than it continuing to mature. The current forecast though which could change any day shows a greater risk of continued maturity than rain.  

To determine if harvesting is your best strategy, you should assess the stand’s maturity and quality to meet your forage needs. One method of determining when to harvest alfalfa fields to match your livestock needs is PEAQ which estimates %NDF quickly by measuring the height of the alfalfa and the growth stage. A full explanation and measurement chart can be found at: Another option is to use a PEAQ stick that has the NDF measurements on it.

The following table indicates average maturity stage, height, and %NDF values over the weekend across Ohio. Many of the fields our educators were monitoring, were harvested this past week decreasing the number of reported counties.



Height (inches)



Early Bud












Crop Observation and Recommendation Network

C.O.R.N. Newsletter is a summary of crop observations, related information, and appropriate recommendations for Ohio crop producers and industry. C.O.R.N. Newsletter is produced by the Ohio State University Extension Agronomy Team, state specialists at The Ohio State University and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). C.O.R.N. Newsletter questions are directed to Extension and OARDC state specialists and associates at Ohio State.