Baby Grass Seed Scouting

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in the Willamette Valley! And when you get beautiful days in November it’s usually the best time to go and look to see how the fields are doing.

We have planted a number of perennial ryegrass seed acres this fall, referred to often as “baby fields”. And as my husband Matt likes to say, “Baby perennial ryegrass is always looking for a way to die!” What he means is that when perennial ryegrass is just starting out it makes for a delicious meal for both slugs and geese, and when they attack they can decimate acres and acres in just a few days. So we often go out to make sure as it’s coming up that it’s being protected as best we can.

To tell you the truth as we headed out across the field it didn’t look very good. It just looked like a lot of open soil with no sprout. Which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to get a field to grow.

But we didn’t let it worry us too much. This field wasn’t planted too long ago and we knew that it should just be starting to sprout. So with a closer inspection, this field is actually doing quite well as it just starts to come out of the ground.

That’s what we call the start of being able to “row up” a grass seed planting. And the good news is that while we found a few slugs, the bait that we put out a week ago is still protecting the grass as it sprouts. And as far as geese it didn’t look like they had found it yet, so we will continue to scout for them as they fly over and more than likely also start to spot the rows of tasty grass.

We also saw a lot of worm castings which is a sign of good soil health. You can see in this photo all the small dry bits of soil, that is all from worm activity.

These fields will need to be protected through the winter from the slugs, geese, and kept clean from weeds that will inevitably sprout through the dormant and growing season. Before harvest next July we will be out scouting our acres every few weeks, if not everyday depending on the conditions in the fields. Today was a beautiful day to get this done, I’m sure my rain coat and muck boot wearing days aren’t far away though…this is Oregon after all!

Checking on a Baby Field

I went out today to check on one of our most struggling baby fields.  It’s been a cold and tough winter for these young plants.  Baby fields are fields that we planted last fall and have not been harvested yet.

These little baby grass plants are slowly…painfully…growing up out of the ground.  final-48We planted right into the old stand of grass seed this fall, which is not how we commonly grow grass seed.  However as Mother Nature doesn’t always leave you options, this wet fall closed the window on conventional planting for us.  This is a risk for us, but we are hoping that once spring comes, this dead looking field behind me, look s a lot more green!final-49Come on little guys!  You can do it!final-47

Farming…It’s more about Slugs than Glamour

First of all I would like to thank all our service men & women!  I know I’m a day late for Veterans Day, but I would like to say “Thank You!” just the same…

Farming is dirty, it’s messy, truth be told most of the time it’s rather grimy.  But never did I think about some of the jobs being somewhat, well, very disgusting.  During the winter months we have a pest that has seems to creep up more and more as the years go by.  They start about 18 inches in the ground and slowly slime their way up when they get hungry.  Once they get to the top and see the beautiful night sky they start to eat, and eat, and eat.  They eat so much that if they happen to find themselves in a sweet tasting baby grass field, they can eat 5 acres in a night, with nothing slowing them down.

One of my more disgusting jobs on the farm…finding and killing slugs.  Now these guys aren’t your typical household banana slugs roaming around out there.  They are smaller, faster, love to reproduce type of slugs.  Not these guys…

Our slug issues look more like this…

Yes, grossly enough those are tiny little slugs, all gathered around getting a late night snack from some blue colored bait.  Thousands…we have thousands of these little guys, an they can be extremely destructive to our grass fields.  Here are a few slimy facts about the grey field slug…

1. You can have up to 1/2 million per acre!

2. In a field that is high in population they can eat several tons of organic matter per month.

3. They lay up to 500 eggs in their 2 year lifespan.

4. They hatch new eggs every 2-3 weeks.

5. They can move up to 30 feet in one night.

Here are some pictures of a field that I decided to spray with liquid bait just the other day.  I decided this because of all the slugs that I found crowded around the bait station (pictured above) and also because the field was look pretty weak in certain areas.  Below you will see what I mean by weak…

Pretty good part of the field, very green!

Still green, but more brown areas that have been eaten down.

Not sure if this part of the field will even come back for harvest this summer.

So as you can see, those slimy buggers that might just seem annoying to a homeowner with a garden or flowers, they are a huge threat and have to be monitored constantly this time of year.  Not just to save this year’s crop, but also to make sure that the numbers don’t get up to a half million per acre in the years to come.  Also one of our best defenses to this problem is tillage, a reason why no tillage or minimum tillage has become a tough thing to do in our area.

And to all of you who are going to suggest putting beer out in our fields…we don’t do it, alcohol abuse hello!! 🙂

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