timothy will go into a state of dormancy before or after first cutting. After first cutting, if irrigation water is limited, then refrain from irrigating and stimulating new regrowth. Second cutting regrowth will mobilize stored fructans attempting to produce a second hay crop. Reduced fructans weakens the plant, making it more susceptible to drought induced death. Do not be tempted to graze the taller, residual stubble. Timothy regrowth and stubble, after first cutting, will be high in fructan sugars needed by the plant for the survival period. Timothy should remain dormant until the drought has passed; it likely will survive this interruption in its normal cycle.
If the drought continues from spring to early summer, gradually reduce the amount of water (with each irrigation application) to prolong the spring rooting growth as long as possible. As plants become water stressed, they will grow more slowly and the leaves will wilt. Fructan accumulation will likely decline but proline leaf concentration will increase. Proline has been found in many grasses including cereal grains, which provides partial plant protection during drought periods. Proline concentrations will decrease within 48 hours after irrigation or rainfall resumes. If this event is followed by another prolonged dry period stand losses are likely.
Depending on previous timothy management and current irrigation water availability, spring growth and first cutting yield during a drought will be less than normal. As mentioned, weakened plants (low carbohydrates) will likely not produce seedhead tillers at this time. Tillers will remain vegetative throughout the spring and summer. If timothy is harvested for hay before or at boot, great stress will be placed on the crop.
During the drought, the probability is high that timothy stands will be thinned or lost because the corms lacked time to fill and stubble lacked adequate time to store fructan sugars. Additionally, keep all classes of livestock and farm machinery (including sprayers) off the timothy fields as the plants are very delicate during the drought period.