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Volume 10, Number 8 - Augusut 2004

This Month in Ag Connection

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Taxation Tidbit: Calculating or Avoiding the Mid-Quarter Convention

Most depreciable assets* a farmer acquires qualify for the "half-year depreciation convention". This convention provides that all qualifying property placed in service during the year is allowed one-half year of depreciation, regardless of the date placed in service. An exception to this convention is when more than 40% of the qualifying depreciable assets are placed in service during the last three months of the tax year. If this exception applies, then all depreciable assets that would normally be allowed half-year depreciation must instead be depreciated on the mid-quarter depreciation schedule. Thus, instead of depreciation being half of a full year's depreciation regardless of date of purchase, the percentage will be based on the quarter each asset was placed in service:

First Quarter 87.5%
Second Quarter 62.5%
Third Quarter 37.5%
Fourth Quarter 12.5%

Assets on which the Section 179 expensing election (up to $102,000 for 2004) has been opted are not included in the depreciable asset denominator and numerator. Thus the mid-quarter convention can be circumvented by electing Section 179 on enough assets placed in service during the last quarter to get below 40 percent.

* Depreciable assets excluded in this calculation are nonresidential real property, residential rental property, and property placed in service and disposed in the same year.

(Author: Parman Green, Ag Business Management Specialist)

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Warm Season Grasses Can Fill Summer Gap

Tall Grass

Warm season grasses are coming on now as the summer progresses, while the cool season grasses are rapidly declining in quality. Switchgrass, Indiangrass and Big Bluestem are native warm-season grasses that are suitable for Missouri's climate and weather. Warm season grasses can fit into many grazing systems. It takes planning to determine where warm season grasses could best fit in your grazing system. The goal is to fill in the production slump when cool-season grasses go dormant in July and August. While warm season grasses should be planted in March, April or May, now is the time to evaluate your summer grazing system and start planning where you want to establish warm season grasses.

Pasture efficiency can be improved by looking at your existing system and potentially converting one-fourth to one-third of your cool season grass pastures to a warm season grass of some sort. In this way, warm season and cool season grasses can work in conjunction with each other so that your livestock are not without a good forage base during hot weather. Including warm season grasses into your pasture system will also give your cool-season grasses a good rest during mid-summer, which will also improve their vigor as well in the long term.

According to Iowa State, most warm season grasses, particularly Indiangrass, Switchgrass and Big Bluestem respond to fertile, well-drained soils that also have a good moisture supply. Switchgrass and Indiangrass withstand moderately wet soil conditions and occasional flooding better than Big Bluestem. Switchgrass also tolerates more droughty soils than Big Bluestem or Indiangrass.

Another point to consider when looking at warm season grasses is that native grass seedlings have very low vigor when they are being established and do not compete well with weeds at all (or cool season grasses). Consequently because of this, these grasses can be moderately difficult to establish and it may be two years before they can be hayed or grazed. In exceptional years, according to the University of Missouri, plantings may establish well enough to allow grazing in the second year.

Most warm season grasses can be seeded alone in their respective species or as a mix, however seeding a single grass species is preferred because mixed species are more difficult to manage in a grazing system. It is not recommended to combine warm and cool season grasses together. When spring arrives, cool-season grasses will create a lot of strong competition that the warm season grasses (that start growing later) will have to overcome. For new seedlings this is a pressure that doesn't need to occur.

Switchgrass seems to be a first choice among some producers trying to establish warm season grass for the first time because it is supposedly easier to establish than Big Bluestem or Indiangrass. A few producers in the central Missouri area that planted Switchgrass several years ago, had a hard time establishing it at first. However once the Switchgrass did get established, the producers were pleased with how the grass did in filling the "hole" that cool season grasses leave during the heat of the summer. Similar to cool-season grasses, palatability will decrease with plant maturity. Cattle will graze Switchgrass until the seed heads start growing. After the seed head starts growing, cattle will avoid eating the plant because the grass is not as palatable.

Bluestem and Indiangrass are two other types of warm season grasses that can be used in a grazing system. In Missouri, these warm season grasses might work better in some grazing systems verses using Switchgrass -not because Switchgrass is a worse warm season grass but because of how the growth cycle of cool season grasses in this state coincide with Switchgrass. Switchgrass starts coming into its peak growth about the same time cool season just starts declining, so there might be some seasonal overlap in the grasses production. Switchgrass is one of the first warm season grasses to start growing in late spring. Producers may need to move cattle from cool-season pastures a little early to pastures with Switchgrass before the Switchgrass gets away from them and matures.

Indiangrass and Big Bluestem might fit better in these systems to minimize waste, as peak production of these 2 warm season grasses is late June/early July through August, which is when cool season grasses truly wane in their production. Palatability after maturity is still a problem with Big Bluestem and Indiangrass, but not as bad of a problem as with Switchgrass. In fact, according to Iowa State researchers, Big Bluestem tends to be the most palatable of the three especially after maturity, compared to the other grasses.

This is just a short summary of how warm season native grasses could work in your production system. Although they aren't the answer for everyone's grazing system, they could help in certain production schemes. For more information, contact your local Agronomy or Livestock Specialist.

Below are a few references used for this article.

  1. Big Bluestem, Indiangrass and Switchgrass By: Jimmy C. Henning MU Extension Guidesheet G4673 or go onto the web at:
  2. Warm-Season Grasses for Hay and Pasture By: Iowa State University,

(Author: Wendy Flatt, Livestock Specialist)

Todd Lorenz's ponderings on warm season grasses:
first year they sleep, next year they creep, the third year they leap.

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Some Reasons Why Forage Seedings Fail

Seedlings die immediately after germination because:

  1. Drying: seed placed in loose surface soil may germinate after a light rain, then dry out before developing sufficient roots for establishment.
  2. Freezing: Seed are sensitive to freezing as the young root breaks the seed coat; temperatures below minus 3 degrees C are lethal. Soil coverage reduces the likelihood of injury, and once rooted, seedlings can withstand much lower temperatures.
  3. Light coverage: Soil cover or mulch protects against both drying and freezing; without it, seed establish only when soil surface remains moist for extended periods.
  4. Heavy coverage: Most wasted seed probably occurs this way.
  5. Crusted soil surface: This can prevent emergence, especially when seed are sown deeply on fine-textured soils.
  6. Toxicity: Seed in direct contact with banded fertilizer, improper use of herbicides, herbicide carryover, and autotoxicity can damage seed and young seedlings.

Seedlings die after establishment because:

  1. Undesirable pH: Lime should be applied according to soil test to provide a desirable pH; calcium and magnesium should be applied as nutrients.
  2. Low fertility: A soil test should be used to ensure adequate phosphorus, potassium, or other nutrients.
  3. Inadequate legume inoculation.
  4. Poor drainage: Water accumulation on the surface or in the soil profile can limit growth.
  5. Drought: This is the reason most commonly given for stand failures.
  6. Seedling vigor: Some forages, including nurse crops, can compete with forage seedlings for water, light and nutrients.
  7. Insects and pests.
  8. Winterkill: Seeding too late in the fall or seeding poorly adapted cultivars can cause winterkill.

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Tall Fescue Toxicity Management

An online guide is available that provides information on management of tall fescue toxicity problems. The information in the guide is based on research studies. The guide is published by Crop Management, a new electronic journal.

Craig Roberts, University of Missouri Extension forage specialist is a co-author of the guide. The guide includes six points to consider before replacing tall fescue. Management includes rotation to other pastures, dilution with other forages and supplemental feeding. It also gives management tips to reduce the likelihood of fescue toxicity.

You can access the guide at:

(Author: Don Day, Natural Resource Engineer)

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Bottom Line Tidbit: Rule of Nine

Reconciling your monthly accounting, check register, and bank statement can be frustrating - even for a professional number cruncher - when things don't balance. This morning I'll share a "trick of the trade" that can be extremely useful when those numbers don't balance.

Today's tip is the "rule of nine". If the difference (i.e., the amount that is out of balance) is divisible by nine, the chances are very great that some numbers have been transposed. For example, writing down 540 instead of 450 results in a difference of 90; writing down 26 instead of 62 results in a difference of 36; writing down 18 instead of 81 results in a difference of 63.

As you see, the difference between transposed numbers and the actual numbers is always divisible by 9. Additionally, the amount of the difference dictates the numbers you need to review. For example, if the difference is 360, you need to search your entries for amounts of 150 or 510; 260 or 620; 370 or 730; 480 or 840, or 590 or 950, since only these transposed numbers result in a difference of 360.

Transposing numbers is one of the most common errors involved in record keeping. Fortunately, the rule of nine simplifies the process and reduces the frustration level involved in finding and correcting this common accounting error.

(Author: Parman Green, Ag Business Specialist)

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Publishing Information

Ag Connection is published monthly for Central Missouri Region producers and is supported by University of Missouri Extension, the Commercial Agriculture program, the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station and the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Managing Editor: Kent Shannon.