The event was initiated between NAPI and Dineh Benally, Shiprock Chapter Farm Board and presented by Ron Miller with Alforex Seeds. The presentation had topics that encompassed fall dormancy, soil testing, seed varieties, diseases, planting methods, weed control, and harvest timing. Miller explained to the alfalfa farmers, “You want an alfalfa variety that is actually acclimate to your area. We do trials all over the country looking for winter hardiness and disease protections. Make sure you’re not selecting something that is not great for your area.” Alforex Seeds is an affiliate of Dow AgroSciences with leading technologies and extensive research capabilities to support the selection of alfalfa and forages seeds.
The open discussion allowed the audience to inquire about NAPI’s farming techniques, while NAPI provided info on the services they offer. Dineh John, NAPI Agricultural Testing and Research Lab Manager says, “We accept soil samples from the local community and test for nutrients. The data will determine the needs and recommendations for your fertilizer.” The soil testing is provided at the ATRL building, located south of the NAPI headquarters.
The soil samples and crop rotation are a vital part to NAPI’s planting methods. The alfalfa fields will stand for a maximum of 6 years then the plants will grow scarcely. To prevent the alfalfa from diminishing, NAPI will plant corn or wheat to relieve and enrich the soil. NAPI’s Region 1 Director, Roselyn Yazzie says, “You’ll find a lot of nitrogen in the soil after an alfalfa field is planted. With the crop rotation at NAPI, the corn or wheat will utilize the nitrogen left in the field by the alfalfa.” The dialogue allowed local farmers to share their techniques as well. Gilbert Harrison, Sr., Gadii’ahi-Tokoi Farm Board uses sorghum to help condition the soil. Harrison says, “Planting sorghum is very similar to growing corn. They reach very high when mature and can be fed to your livestock. Sorghum is an alternative method we use to rotate our crop.”
Yazzie elaborated on hay quality between the four different cuts that is common in this region, she says “Your first cutting and your last cutting are the richest quality alfalfa that is used primarily by dairy farms. Your second and your third cutting have a lower relative feed value (RFV) and are safer for most livestock.” The RFV can be lower depending on various factors that consist of inclement weather conditions and disrupting the hay after it is cut. “When we sell to our local ranchers, we recommend the fair or good quality; it’s not too rich for the animals,” says Yazzie. NAPI offers a variety of grades to the public at their Region 2 Scales location that ranges from the high-end premium to the lower quality alfalfa feeder hay.
The Eastern Colorado Seeds, LLC, a seed supplier used by NAPI for alfalfa, corn, hay grazer, and wheat offered their assistance. Clay Smith, ECS representative says “We’re not there for just the seed purchases, we provide services to ensure that whatever NAPI acquires from us in seed products, we help them manage that. We would do the same thing with the Navajo community. We would spend the time and resource ensuring you that once we have a better understanding of what your production management strategies are, with the capabilities you have, we will help you work to achieve high yields and good quality for your market demands.” ECS is based in Burlington, CO and distributes turf and cool season perennial forage seeds across 8 states (CO, KS, NE, WY, OK, TX, NM, & UT).
The Shiprock community is encouraged to contact Dineh Benally, Shiprock Chapter Farm board at 505-368-1081 to request soil samples provided by NAPI ATRL services.
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