Written by F.H. Jeter, Extension Editor, N.C. State College, Raleigh, as published in the Wilmington Star, Nov. 26, 1945
Farmers in Catawba County believe that their county leads the state in the acreage to alfalfa. Last winter, a preliminary report by the Federal Census showed the county to have 950 acres. But local farmers say that this could not have included the 300 acres seeded in the fall of 1944. Seed dealers in the county say they sold 8,293 pounds of seed that fall and that this did not include other seed secured from outside of the county. They know, therefore, that at least 300 acres of alfalfa were planted in the fall of 1944.
Farm Agent Earle Brintnall says that this past fall about 30,000 pounds of seed were bought and the growers would have bought more if they could have located the seed. This is enough, however, to plant from 1,100 to 1,200 acres of alfalfa at the rate of 25 pounds of seed to the acre, the usual rate of sowing.
To add up the acreage, therefore, it would show something like this: 950 acres of old seedlings in the county; 300 acres seeded in the fall of 1944, and 1,100 acres seeded this past fall, which makes a total 3,350 acres for the county. That is enough to produce 7,500 tons of alfalfa hay annually.
When Earle found out that ll this seed had been sold in the county, he set out to find from whence it had come. He found that only 145 pounds of the seed had come from the Argentine. This source, as most growers know, is not satisfactory because the seed from down there are not adapted to North Carolina conditions. This means, then, that Catawba dealers are alert to the needs of their people, and are trying to follow the recommendations of the county agents and extension agronomists. About 8,000 pounds of the seed came from the Pecos Valley of Texas. This is a valley drained by the Pecos River, which traverses the southwestern part of the Lone Star State and empties into the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border. This seed is probably all right if it is not from plants that were grown under irrigation. Mr. Brintnall was not able to get exact information on this but said the alfalfa has come up to a good stand and it looks as if it might be suitable to that section of the state.
The great bulk of the seed, used in Catawba this past fall, was from alfalfa grown in Kansas and Oklahoma and is well adapted to conditions in North Carolina.
Ten years ago when Earle Brintnall became farm agent in Catawba, there was practically no alfalfa being grown there. The folks were not pushing their livestock and dairy business as they should, and it took lots of hard work, much talking and boosting to get the crop started again. A few men here and there began to try out the crop and those who once tried it began to expand their acreages. Small plots were seeded in various parts of the county to test out the best means of preparing the land; how to cultivate it to keep it on the land over a period of years; and how to fertilize, harvest and cure the hay.
It has been definitely proven now that there is a place for the legume in Catawba and one of the fieldmen for a large milk processing plant in Statesville said there is more alfalfa to be seen along the road from Newton to the border of the county near Banoak than in any other county in this state.
Recently, some of the extension agronomists were up there to check the hybrid seed corn plots and to get results from the different hybrids being tested this year. They said they had never seen so much alfalfa and they were particularly impressed with the way in which the growers had prepared their seed beds. One of the agronomists remarked, “We will have to tell some of our experiment station folks to come up here where they really grow alfalfa and find out how it is done.”
On a trip over the county last week, I saw stands that had been on the land for seven to eight years. This means that the crop was put in correctly to start with, that it had been fertilized and harvested as it should be. The year the growers cut their first hay on about April 15 which was unusually early and was due of course to the warm period in March causing the alfalfa to grow so fast that it had to be cut. Most farmers in Catawba have cut their alfalfa five times this season and the fields are not hurt for facing the winder cold because I saw growth that would average at least six inches high on most of the fields. The crop seems to like those old red hills up there and thrives perhaps better than it does on the more open soils of the eastern section.
But the land has to be well prepared, well fertilized, and well planted with well inoculated adapted seed. One of the prettiest fields in the county is a patch of 7 ½ acres belonging to Arthur Little just west of old St. Paul’s Church. Seldom does one find a more uniform or a more healthy appearing field in this state.