Friday, December 12, 2014

Orchardgrass Production Meeting to be Held January 8


Virginia Cooperative Extension is hosting an Orchardgrass Production Meeting on Thursday, January 8, from 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at Creekside Plain and Fancy in Edinburg, VA.    Farmers wishing to attend should register in advance by calling the Shenandoah County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension (540-459-6140) by January 5.  There is a $5 per person registration fee payable at the door. 

Farmers across the mid-Atlantic (DE, MD, PA, VA, and WV) are experiencing reduced vigor (fewer cutting and lower yields per year) and early death of orchardgrass stands compared to only ten years ago.  A 15 member task force (called the Mid-Atlantic Orchardgrass Task Force) was organized that represents agribusinesses, farmers, university specialists, and extension educators from Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. 

In response, the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture initiated a research program to address the problem.  Mr. Gordon Jones was hired as a doctorial student at Virginia Tech within the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences.  For the past one and one half years, Mr. Jones has been focusing on this issue.  This has included an extensive multi-year assessment of over 53 orchardgrass fields throughout the mid-Atlantic, and research plots focused on cutting height, fertility, and disease pressure.  During this meeting, Mr. Jones will give an update of his research program and provide some of the results to date.  This meeting will allow area farmers to have direct interaction with one of the primary researchers who is addressing this problem. 

            The Mid-Atlantic Orchardgrass Task Force estimates there are approximately 1.1 million acres of “improved” stands in the mid-Atlantic region and this problem is costing farmers over $40 million per year.  Meetings of industry, Extension, and government agencies (USDA-NRCS and USDA-ARS) personnel have been held to discuss the current situation. Discussions at these meetings have identified three potential causes of these orchardgrass problems:

  1. Cutting or grazing too short and/or too frequently,
  2. Pests (primarily orchardgrass billbugs, grubs, and a disease called leaf streak),
  3. Improper fertilization.

These factors are either working individually or in concert to cause significant financial losses to farmers.  However, there are many farmers across the mid-Atlantic who are following all recommended practices who are still experiencing these problems.  Thus, a key recommendation from the Task Force was that research was needed to find a solution.

            A special thank you to the following agribusinesses for helping to sponsor this meeting:  AMVAC, BASF, Bayer Cropscience, Binkley & Hurst, CFC Farm & Home, Dow AgroSciences LLC, Farm Family Insurance, First Bank & Trust Company, Helena Chemical Co., Hubner Seed, James River Equipment, Mathias Brothers, MidAtlantic Farm Credit,  Monsanto Company, Page Cooperative Farm Bureau, Rockingham Cooperative Farm Bureau, Southern States – Front Royal, Southern States – Luray, Southern States – Winchester, Sygenta, Valley Fertilizer & Chemical Company, Virginia Farm Bureau, Wightman Insurance Agency, and Winchester Equipment Co.

Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.

 If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services, or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Robert A. Clark, Senior Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources, at the Shenandoah County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension at 540-459-6140/TDD* during business hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. to discuss accommodations five days prior to the event.  *TDD number is 800-828-1120.

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