• Home
  • In the magazine


Laying the groundwork

THE 2022 MFA FORAGE TOUR ON JULY 13 at the University of Missouri’s Southwest Research Extension and Education Center (SW-REEC), located about four miles southwest of Mt. Vernon, Mo., demonstrated what Mother Nature’s extremes can do to the best-laid plans.

Jay Chism, director of the SW-REEC, began laying the groundwork for a new forage research partnership between MU and MFA in the winter of 2021. Trials would include warm-season annual forages such as sorghum-sudan and fertiliz­er applications. Little did he know that the weather was not going to cooperate.

“As with any year, the weather plays a key role in the success or failure of any forage plots we plant,” Chism said. “This year, the challenges were especially evident.”

Rain, rain and more rain fell across Missouri in the spring. During the month of April, southwest Missouri saw more than 4.5 inches of the wet stuff, and then almost 10 inches fell in May.

It was tricky just to get the forage test plots in the ground, said Matt Massie, senior research agronomist at SW-REEC.

“We waited on the rain and just had a window of one or two days. The plots were planted much later than normal,” he said. “But then the fields dried quick­ly as temperatures got up into the high 90s, with many days over 100 degrees during June and July. The area near the river bottom dried up hard and fast. It was just like concrete down there.”

With lack of rain, growth was slow, and the test plots did not demonstrate what researchers had hoped, said Landry Jones, MFA Incorporated conserva­tion grazing specialist, who helped organize the Forage Tour.

“What you see in the test plots is not what those plants are capable of, but even with very little moisture, there is some growth,” Jones pointed out to MFA staff and customers during the July tour. “This area received .001 inch of rain since June 8. It’s clear that you need rainfall and fertility for a good harvest. The plots got the fertility, they just did not get the rainfall.”

Massie added that if the plots had been planted in May, they would have been harvested in July. “We could still potentially get a couple of cuttings,” he told the tour group, “but it’s looking dreary right now because the forecast is less favorable. But that’s life in south­west Missouri.”

Once the growing season and harvest were complete, Chism confirmed in early 2023 that the severe drought at the SW-REEC limited the number of cuttings and total yield.

“Having plot work each year in all kinds of weather conditions provides the best information for the producers in the area,” he said. “Not any one forage works in all locations, but if we have good randomized and replicated forage plot research, we can offer real data from southwest Missouri soils.”

Chism said he appreciates MFA’s investment in MU’s plot work and would like to see the work expand to perennial forages.

“Forages drive the cattle business,” he said. “Understanding how to maximize the forage base in the area and using annual forages to increase the ton per acre can help contribute to a cattle producer’s bottom line.”


After viewing the sorghum-sudan test plots, the tour group visited a local producer’s farm to learn about Corteva weed-con­trol trials with DuraCor, a herbicide that provides extended control of more than 140 weeds while maintaining grass safety. Nutritious grasses are able to thrive, making each acre more productive.

Tests compared impregnated and non-impregnated fertilizer applications, broadcast spraying and timing of applications. Im­pregnation is the process of applying a concentrated herbicide solution to dry fertilizer granules during blending, allowing plant nutrients and weed-control products to be spread at the same time. Corteva, the manufacturer of DuraCor, refers to this fertilizer impregnation system as UltiGraz.

After seeing the untreated control plot, which was overgrown with weeds, attendees viewed plots that had various degrees of control. The trials demonstrated that timing and type of prod­uct do matter when it comes to weed control, said David Moore, MFA range and pasture specialist. The earlier you tackle the weeds, he stressed, the better.

“We missed a fair amount of weeds in the plots that received the later herbicide applications,” Moore said. “The weeds got too far ahead of us. When we use an im­pregnated fertilizer, it works as a pre-emergent product. So those weeds were already out of the ground, and we’re behind the 8-ball.”

To help reduce weed competition in forage fields, Jones said that nothing is going to beat spraying, but the Ulti­Graz system has its place.

in early summer to spray their pastures or their hay fields,” he said. “Impregnation saves that step and can be very important to an operation, depending on how busy they are or if they have the equipment to spray.”

Expecting the unexpected from Mother Nature should be a part of the plan, Jones empha­sized.

“A lot of folks, especially in southern Missouri, get out early and spread fertilizer on cool-sea­son grass pastures. Most of the time that works because, in a typical spring, we’re getting consistent rains,” he explained. “Temperatures are slowly warming up and that goes right in line with what fertilizers need to be incorporated into the soil. However, issues arise when we are not protecting the nitrogen, and we hope for the perfect weather scenario.”

This past spring was far from perfect. Too much rain early in the season followed by hot, dry conditions are “the two worst things” in forage production, Jones said.

“The rain dilutes the nitrogen, which can cause runoff and leaching,” he said. “Heat can cause volatilization, and nitrogen is lost to the atmosphere before we get rain to incorporate it.”

Jones advised growers to use a product such as SuperU, a urea-based granule with a built-in stabilizer, to guard against above- and below-ground nitrogen loss, volatilization, leaching and denitrification.

“I would recommend using SuperU any time, especially during spring application,” he said. “With the high cost of fertilizer, when we can optimize or be more efficient with that nitrogen use, then the better off we’ll be from a dollar-and-cent standpoint as well as from a forage utili­zation standpoint.”


Moore, Jones and Chism are planning and preparing for the 2023 MFA Forage Tour. Because of last year’s weather, they are going to repeat some of the same trials and hope for more normal conditions. Due to the drought, foxtail was a common weed problem for many producers, so the tour will also examine herbicide products to combat it.

“We are looking at viable herbicide and fertility applications that can improve forage production and profitability for our producers,” Jones said. “The pro­ducer we are partnering with has a very diversified operation. His forages include Kentucky 31 fescue, novel endophyte fescue and native warm-season grasses. He also incorporates rotational grazing, so we are going to highlight his management tech­niques.”

No matter the challenges or composition of these trials, keeping MFA staff and customers informed with the most pertinent and up-to-date information is the goal of the research and the tour, he added.

“We don’t want to get pigeonholed into one way of doing things,” Jones said. “When we think outside the box, many times we find better ways to manage pastures and farms. We can share that information with our producers to serve them better.”

For more information on forage pro­duction, contact Landry Jones at ljones@ mfa-inc.com or David Moore at dmoore@ mfa-inc.com.

Related Story: Five ways to drought-proof your forages by David Moore

  • Created on .
  • Hits: 400

Q&A with MFA director Frank Schieber

This is a continuing series of interviews with MFA Incorporated’s board of directors to help members get to better know their cooperative’s leadership. In this edition, we feature Frank Schieber, District 1 director from Stanberry, Mo., where he runs a diversified farming operation with row crops, hay, pasture and beef cattle.

When you look at MFA’s values statement, which one means the most to you and why?
Schieber: I would say accountability. When I sit in the boardroom, I realize I’m representing the members. We can’t lose sight of the fact that we are member-owned. But we also have the responsibility to keep MFA strong and profitable for years to come. As a board, we have to make hard decisions, but we always do it with what’s best for the co-op and the members in mind.

The agriculture industry remains volatile as we start the 2023 spring season. How can MFA help farmers navigate through these challenges?
In farming, there’s always some challenge. It’s never easy. Just like this past year, the north had a good growing season, while the southern part had severe drought. Inflation has been one of the biggest concerns for me and the board, and there’s sticker shock on the inputs we sell. MFA has to balance keeping products there for the members but also staying competitive in the marketplace. We’ve got some great people in charge of that, and I think they’ve done a good job in a difficult situation. Hopefully, we’ll have good weather and good crops this year. Usually, when farmers are profitable, MFA is profitable.

FrankA new Farm Bill is being devel-oped this year. What are some of the priorities it should include?
Schieber: It’s important to keep a strong safety net for farmers, and I don’t want to see the government going overboard on regulations, especially on theenvironmental front. Farmers are the best stewards. We want clean water. We want clean air. We want to take care of the land. But I guess I don’t worry as much about the farm bill as I do about the over-regulation we’re seeing. Europe has restricted the use of atrazine. Canada wants to reduce nitrogen fertilizer emissions by 30%. We’re feeding a growing world, and the more limitations farmers have, the harder it’s going to be for us to keep producing. I would like to see less regulation and more common sense.

You farm in the district that will be served by MFA’s new Ravenwood Agronomy Center. What will a facility like this mean to the growers in your area?
Schieber: As a co-op, we have to be very efficient with our assets but also stay up to date with what we offer our members. The Ravenwood facility is one way to do that. Centralizing fertilizer and crop protection services is much more efficient than working out of facilities spread all over the area. Having a state-of-the-art facility that can fill a 24- ton tender in 10 minutes will allow us to better serve our members. It’s also going to help us better manage all the regulatory requirements instead of trying to keep multiple places in compliance. Plus, equipment is getting more and more expensive, and having one central location will help us keep up with technology. It’s a different way of doing things, and change is hard for a lot of people. But MFA has to move forward to position ourselves for the future.

What have you learned about MFA as a member of the board of directors that you might not have learned without the closer involvement?
Schieber: I knew MFA has a great group of employees here locally, but as I’ve had a chance to go out and meet people at other MFA locations around the state and at
the home office, I’ve realized that there are good people throughout our company at all levels. They work hard,
and they want what’s best for the farmers. I also didn’t realize the scope of community support that MFA gives corporately, such as the MFA Charitable Foundation grants. I always encourage nonprofits to go on the website and apply (mfa-inc.com/charity). Overall, it’s been a joy to be on the MFA board and work with the other directors. We have a really cohesive group that’s very engaged. Wayne Nichols, who is just retiring as chairman, is one of the best men I’ve ever met. It all comes down to people. You can have the best equipment, the best facilities and the best products, but if the people and the leadership aren’t there, you’re not going to be successful. You’ve got to have good leadership, and I think we have that at MFA.

  • Created on .
  • Hits: 63

Five ways to drought proof your forages

At the 2023 MFA Winter Agronomy Meeting in January, David Moore, MFA range and pasture specialist, was part of a panel discussion about the effects of the 2022 drought.

“Do you think there will be another drought?” he asked, and then surveyed the room, where every hand was raised. “How many of you said no? Zero! Droughts are inevitable. If we offer producers ways to be more successful through the tough times, they will also be more profitable through favor­able times.”

Moore encouraged the audience to consider five practices that can help drought-proof a farm.

DavidMoore1. Always start with hay ground because it will be the first to show deficiencies or abuse. Enroll in Nutri-Track, MFA’s precision nutrient program that manages soil fertility on an acre-by-acre basis. “The forage producers who are most successful through a drought are signed up with Nutri-Track,” said Moore. “They’re following the precision recommendations and seeing the real-life results and yields. At the very least, producers should be soil testing while making sure they’re taking care of nitrogen (N), phos­phorus (P) and potassium (K).”

2. Properly manage pH and control weeds. “You may remem­ber the big drought in 2012. Weeds kicked us hard that following year,” Moore said. “Find out your pH levels and get some lime on those fields, if needed. Then be sure to control the weeds by either spraying or using an impreg­nated fertilizer.”

3. Don’t mow or graze lower than 4 inches. This helps reduce weeds, encourages soil health and keeps the grass in a mode to quickly recover and grow. Moore added that with warm-season grasses the height should be kept at 6 to 8 inches because native grasses need leaf surface to continue growing vigorously. Their growth points occur higher on the stem than cool-season grasses.

4. Aggressively go after P and K levels. “If you’ve got soil tests that are showing some terribly low amounts of phospho­rus and potassium, it’s going to be a train wreck during a drought,” Moore explained. “In those cases, hold off on the nitrogen for a bit and go back to work on the P and K levels. It’s a big deal that needs to be fixed to move forward successfully. P and K aren’t going anywhere. We don’t lose those nutrients with rain events like we do with nitrogen. Come springtime, apply some nitrogen, and suddenly that field will come back to life.”

5. Mitigate the effects of endophyte by diversifying forages and using Ricochet Fescue Max mineral. “The first thing everybody thinks of when we talk about putting something in our pastures other than fescue is clover,” Moore said. “And that would be probably the last on my list for farms in Missouri that we are trying to make more drought resistant. I would have native warm-season grasses and fescue rather than clover, which is going to quickly die during a drought.”

Generally, Moore concluded, pastures are more resilient than hay fields and have the ability to repair themselves if they are properly fed, have less competition from weeds and are allowed to rest. He encourages producers to visit with their MFA livestock specialist, agronomist or key account manager to get specific guidance for their individual situations.

“If you do some planning now, pay close attention to fertility and weed control and follow good management practices, your forages will be in better shape and more tolerant to droughts in the future,” Moore said.

For more information on forage production, contact Landry Jones at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or David Moore at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 This story was part of coverage of MFA forage production tour. Read the related story HERE: https://www.todaysfarmermagazine.com/mag/2072-laying-the-groundwork

  • Created on .
  • Hits: 50

In this Feb 2023 Today's Farmer Magazine


Show-Me soil sense
Missouri agriculture’s diversity begins at ground level

by Jessica Ekern

Like-minded leaders
Second annual MFA conference provides education, networking for young farmers

by Allison Jenkins

Taking hold of the future
MFA reports on fiscal 2022, shares plans for 2023 and beyond

by Allison Jenkins

The year in review
Opportunities and challenges of 2022

by TF staff

2022 InReview
by TF staff
(Alternate view as Printed)

NOTICE of District Meetings
The week of March 5, 2023.

Off to a great start
Shield Plus makes a difference in calf health, performance at Turley Cattle Co.

by Jessica Ekern

Career connections
MFA’s Ag Life conference highlights job opportunities in the industry

by Allison Jenkins

The belly-to-belly way
Crop insurance planning works best when there’s real human connection

by Blake Thomas

Built to last
Producers can count on Iowa Steel & Wire for dependable, durable fencing

by Allison Jenkins

Manage small for big returns
Precision applications help protect your fertility investment

by Davin Harms

Four key components of effective fly control

Cultural, physical, biological, chemical measures important to pest management

by Dr. Jim White


Country Corner
Clock is ticking on 2023 Farm Bill

by Allison Jenkins

MFA’s Twenter among finalists for AGCO Operator of the Year
McIntyre, Worthington named ARA Rising Stars
Conservation tradition

Markets (as printed)

Corn: South American drought tightens supplies
Soybeans: Exports to China continue to trend upward
Cattle: Producers may see record fed cattle prices in 2023
Wheat: Markets remain sensitive to winter weather

Recipes (as printed)

Kick it up a notch

Marketplace (as printed)
BUY, sell, trade

A chance to look forward

by Ernie Verslues

Closing Thought
Poem by Walter Bargen

A flip book of the February 2022 Today's Farmer magazine is below.
Click here or below to view the magazine as printed via a flip book.

  • Created on .
  • Hits: 705

About Today's Farmer magazine

Today's Farmer is published 9 times annually. Printed issues arrive monthly except combined issues for June/July, August/September and December/January. Subscriptions are available only in the United States.

If you would like to begin or renew a print subscription, CLICK HERE and go to our shop. We are proud to offer the subscription for only $15 per year.

 ©2023 MFA Incorporated.

Connect with us.