NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — We are in the full swing of haying season here in Nebraska. However, I see many bales being left out in the middle of hay fields.
Bales and stacks of hay left in the middle of fields must be removed at some point. While it may not matter too much for those bales to set for a while in the middle of the field after the final cutting for the year, delaying removal can be harmful when we are in haying season and more harvests are expected. Directly under the bale or stack, plants are often killed when covered up for more than a week or two. This may not hurt your yield too much but makes for a great place for weeds to get started in your field.
Most of the damage, though, is due to wheel traffic on the regrowth. Studies have shown that when fields are dry, plants driven on before regrowth occurs will yield about 5 to 7 percent less at the next cutting. This number only increase if you wait to remove bales. Just seven days after cutting, when regrowth shoots had started to grow, yield was reduced over 25 percent and fewer of these plants survived. Worse yet is removing bales when fields are wet. When soils are wet wheel traffic causes more soil compaction. When this happens, yield loss typically exceeds 30 percent.
These studies emphasize the benefits of baling and removing bales from hay fields as quickly as possible after cutting as well as minimizing driving on wet soils. They also suggest that following the same trail when removing bales or stacks from fields can reduce losses from wheel tracks by limiting the total area damaged. Hay fields must be driven on, to remove bales after harvest, but you can lessen damage by controlling where, when and how often you drive on them.
— Melissa Bartels, Nebraska Extension
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