Grass exposed to elements

Nurturing Agricultural Resilience: Ensuring Forage Persists in Any Climate

Mother Nature throws many things at our forage crops that affect how they produce and even survive. When you look across the country, every region has its environmental factors that cause plant stands to weaken. Two of these factors that affect persistency would be cold and heat tolerance, and when you investigate these two, you can determine certain species that handle these stresses better than others. For example, Bermuda grass will handle extreme heat much better than perennial ryegrass and on the other hand, meadow fescues will handle and thrive in cold temperatures much better than Crabgrass. 

In the dynamic tapestry of agriculture, one thread that often goes unnoticed, yet is foundational to the livelihood of cattle and dairy farmers, is the persistence of forage. Quite like the unassuming moss that blankets a forest floor, the way forage weathers environments holds the key to sustainability and success in the industry. But how do we ensure this essential cog in the farming wheel persists, unfaltering, regardless of seasonal patterns?

snow cows

Genetically-Guided Growth: Selecting the Seeds of Success

When you start looking at each species individually, you will find a wide range of persistence within their normal growing region, and a lot of this has come from selective breeding. This breeding helps in finding the genetics that handle certain stressors better than others and making crosses to bring in more positive attributes like yield or water usage.  We talked about Bermuda grass not being able to survive extreme cold, but within the species of Bermuda grass, there are some varieties that can handle cold better which pushes their growing region further north. This also goes for pushing that species south where there are varieties that have more extreme heat tolerance and persist in harsher climates. 

Knowing what varieties you select is one way of increasing your forage species to persist in your growing area. On the other hand, Mother Nature and management have a lot to do with how your crop handles environmental stressors.  In addition, timing when you harvest or graze your crop might be the determining factor on whether that crop comes back. If you are in a drought area, pulling livestock off and letting that crop save some energy to bounce back once it gets some rain will be much more beneficial than letting them grub it to the ground and eliminating the plant altogether. This is also the case for cold tolerance.  Pulling livestock or not harvesting for short period in the fall when they are storing their reserves will greatly affect your next season’s yield and the survivability of that crop over winter. 

Fertility: The Nourishing Jolt for Fading Fortitude

Just as we require a balanced diet to thrive, our forage also relies on adequate nutrition. Soil tests and plant tissue analysis are not Farmer's Almanacs; they are the precise maps that guide you to the heart of your forage’s dietary needs.

Optimizing fertility is a preemptive strike against environmental assaults. Well-fed plants are hardier and better equipped to mount a defense against the vagaries of the weather. It’s about resilience that grows from within the plant, anchored in the nutrients at its roots.

When we account for these three pillars in the cultivation of our crops, we are staking our claim on a future brimming with sustainable yields. Through the lens of genetic diversity, thoughtful management, and steadfast fertility, we arm our forage to stand against the coldest of colds and hottest of hots, to persist as a testament to human ingenuity and care.

tilling soil

Forage is more than just the pasture underfoot. It’s a symbol of our commitment to the earth, to our herds, and to a future where agriculture thrives in harmony with the world around us. Take heed of the wisdom that nature whispers to our crops, and forge a legacy of persistence that will outlast any storm.

Proper fertility is another thing that we can control to increase the longevity of our crop. Having a healthier plant allows it to battle against these environmental challenges much better.  Soil tests and plant tissue tests are great ways of knowing where your fields are at, and correcting them before more serious problems arrive.   

There are always going to be things that affect our crops that are out of our hands, but when you take the time and focus on what you can control like: 

  • Variety selection within the species you plant 

  • Harvest management before the extremes happen 

  • Plant and soil health 

You will see your crop have much better persistence when the extreme environmental challenges happen and they can tolerate those challenges and stay productive in seasons to come.  


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