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Annual Alternative Forage-type Cereal/Grass Crops for Forage Production

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

Location: Fairview Research Farm

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2019 Annual Report


Annual forages are commonly used for hay, silage or pasture to compliment perennial forage production, or used as emergency feed. In addition to the traditional oats and barley crops used for forage for livestock production in the Peace River region, several other forage-type crops, which are considered alternative forage feeds for livestock are becoming popular. These alternatives are mostly new to us in the Peace country. Some require warm soil to germinate and warm weather to thrive. Many of the alternative feeds vary widely in nutrient content, making an analysis or some assessment of the feed value necessary. It is important for PCBFA to evaluate such annual crop species and varieties for adaptation and forage potential. The evaluation will allow producers to know more about their growth, forage production and quality (energy, protein and major mineral levels).

Objective

The objective of this trial was to assess the performance of introduced forage-type annual cereal/grass crops as alternatives to traditional barley and oat crops for greenfeed, silage or swath grazing.

Methods

Experimental Site: Fairview Research Farm (NW-5-82-3-W6M) on RR #35, MD of Fairview.

Previous Crop: The previous crop at the site was an alfalfa hay crop for several years until the Fall of 2018.

Land Preparation: In the Fall of 2018, the site was sprayed with Roundup at 1.0 L/acre (to kill the existing alfalfa dominated vegetation) and plowed. The site was disced & harrowed in the spring of 2019.

Soil analysis done in the Fall of 2018 was from the soil depth interval of 0-6” showed an organic matter content of 8.2%, pH of 6.2 and an electrical conductivity of 0.21 ds/m. The soil test reports showed 10 lbs N/acre, 14 lbs P/acre and 485 lbs K/acre as well as 9 lb S/acre.

Spring soil moisture at seeding:

12.4% (0-5 cm soil depth) and 14.1% (0-20 cm soil depth).

Spring soil temperature a Seeding:

9.19°C (0-5 cm soil depth) and 7.79°C (0-20 cm soil depth).


Experimental Design: Randomized Complete Block Design with 4 replications.

Treatments: 14 annual crop species & varieties were tested. These varieties consisted of the following 5 warm season cereals and 9 cool season crops (Table 1).

Seeding date was on May 23. The seeds were sown using a Fabro plot drill equipped with disc-type openers on 9” row spacing. Six rows that were 8 m long were sown per plot. Seeding depth was 0.75”.

Fertility for an average cereal crop forage yield (actual lbs/acre) was applied at: 89 N + 39 P + 0 K + 13 S. No K was applied as the soil test reports showed optimum levels of K for triticale and soft white wheat production for the year.

Spraying: Pre-emergent herbicide with StartUp (Glyphosate, 540 grams acid equivalent per litre, present as potassium salt) was applied at 0.67 L/acre. StartUp is a water soluble herbicide for non-selective weed control. In-crop herbicide application was with Prestige A (170 mL/acre) + Prestige B (800 mL/acre).


Harvesting for forage dry matter (DM) yield determination for all crops was done on August 28. Forage samples were shipped to A & L laboratory, Ontario for forage quality determination. Plant height was taken one day before the varieties were harvested. Notes were also taken on plant lodging.


Rainfall received from seeding to forage harvest was 184.7 mm (or 7.27”) which compared well to 188.7 mm (7.43”) for the long-term average for the same period.

Harvesting for forage dry matter (DM) yield determination for all crops was completed on August 28. Forage samples were shipped to A & L laboratory, Ontario for forage quality determination. Plant height was take a day before the varieties were harvested. Notes were also taken on plant lodging.

Results and Implications

Forage Dry Matter Yield

The forage DM yield of alternative forage-type cereal crops tested in this trial varied from 4,934 lbs/acre for Sorghum Sudan Grass to 9,770 lbs/acre for AAC Paramount soft white wheat (Table 2). Both soft white wheat tested here had similar forage DM yield. Only 2 of the alternative forage-type crops (AC Andrew soft white wheat and AAC Paramount Soft white wheat) seemed to produce some forage DM yield advantage over CDC Maverick barley (check). Both soft white produced about 1,000-1,297 lbs DM yield/acre more than CDC Maverick barley.

For the warm crops tested, red proso millet significantly produced higher forage DM yield (8,180 lbs/acre) than other warm season crops tested within this trial. The 3 Festulolium varieties produced similar forage DM yields. The 4 annual/Italian ryegrasses produced 7,092-8,922 lbs/acre.

The impressive forage DM yield obtained for red proso millet, AC Andrew soft white wheat and AAC Paramount Soft white wheat, Firkin Italian Ryegrass and Tetra Brand Annual Ryegrass, which were all comparable to CDC Maverick barley forage DM yield this year show that these crops could be used as alternative crops for forage production in the area.

It is important to note that the warm season crops require soil warmer temperatures to germinate than cool-season crops. So, caution needs to be taken on the number of acres to be seeded when any of these crops is grown as monocultures.

This year seemed to be cooler than normal, so a warm season crop such as sorghum Sudan grass which would normally produce >3.5-4.0 tons DM yield/acre in the area as a when grown as a monoculture only produced about 2.5 tons/acre this year. Overall, in a good year, red proso millet, white proso millet and sorghum Sudan grass would produce good forage for greenfeed, silage and swath grazing (see previous PCBFA Annual Reports).

Forage Quality

Crude protein (CP) - The forage CP was generally above 10%, with Melquartro Italian ryegrass recording the highest CP (17.5% CP) than other crops tested including CDC Maverick barley (Table 2). This was followed by sorghum Sudan grass with 16.4% CP. Generally, apart from sorghum Sudan grass, all Festulolium varieties and Italian ryegrasses seemed to have better forage CP than other crops.

With 10 – 18% CP obtained for the crops tested within this trial, it is clear that the protein requirements of dry gestating beef cattle have been met. Only AAC Paramount Soft white wheat seemed to fall short of the required 11% for a lactating beef cow. All the other crops including CDC Maverick barley had sufficient protein for a lactating beef cow.

Melquartro Italian ryegrass consistently had higher TDN and other forms of energy (NEL, NEM and NEG), digestibility and RFV than other crops (Table 2). Melquartro Italian Ryegrass also had lower ADF and NDF, which is an advantage over other crops when considering that lower values of ADF and NDF are preferred. All crops exceeded the TDN requirements of mature beef cattle and were well within the 65 - 70% TDN required by young beef cattle.


The impressive forage DM yield obtained for red proso millet, AC Andrew soft white wheat and AAC Paramount Soft white wheat, Firkin Italian Ryegrass and Tetra Brand Annual Ryegrass, which were all comparable to CDC Maverick barley forage DM yield this year show that these crops could be used as alternative crops for forage production in the area.

It is important to note that the warm season crops require soil warmer temperature to germinate than cool season crops. So, caution needs to be taken on the number of acres to be seeded when any of these crops is grown as monocultures.

This year seemed to be cooler than normal, so a warm season crop such as sorghum Sudan grass which would normally produce >3.5-4.0 tons DM yield/acre in the area as a when grown as a monoculture only produced about 2.5 tons/acre this year. Overall, in a good year, red proso millet, white proso millet and sorghum Sudan grass would produce good forage for greenfeed, silage and swath grazing (see previous PCBFA Annual Reports).

Forage Quality

Crude protein (CP) - The forage CP was generally above 10%, with Melquartro Italian ryegrass recording the highest CP (17.5% CP) than other crops tested including CDC Maverick barley (Table 2). This was followed by sorghum Sudan grass with 16.4% CP. Generally, apart from sorghum Sudan grass, all Festulolium varieties and Italian ryegrasses seemed to have better forage CP than other crops.

With 10 – 18% CP obtained for the crops tested within this trial, it is clear that the protein requirements of dry gestating beef cattle have been met. Only AAC Paramount Soft white wheat seemed to fall short of the required 11% for a lactating beef cow. All the other crops including CDC Maverick barley had sufficient protein for a lactating beef cow.

Melquartro Italian ryegrass consistently had higher TDN and other forms of energy (NEL, NEM and NEG), digestibility and RFV than other crops (Table 2). Melquartro Italian Ryegrass also had lower ADF and NDF, which is an advantage over other crops when considering that lower values of ADF and NDF are preferred. All crops exceeded the TDN requirements of mature beef cattle and were well within the 65 - 70% TDN required by young beef cattle.

The forage Ca varied from 0.27 to 0.57% for the alternative cereal/annual grass crops tested including CDC Maverick barley (Table 2).


The forage P varied from 0.20 to 0.32% in this study. On the other hand, in most cases CDC Maverick barley had lower forage P and K than other crops. However, CDC Maverick barley had higher forage Mg and Na than other crops tested.


Overall, there wasn’t a particular crop that was able to completely meet the Ca, P, Mg and Na requirements of mature beef cattle. So because of this, mineral supplementation would be needed when any of these crops are feed to beef cattle. On a general note, CDC Maverick barley and the 2 soft white wheats (Paramount and AC Andrew) seemed to have lower forage Ca, P and K than other crops.

It is important to note that the Festulolium varieties and the 2 Italian ryegrasses showed great ability for regrowth shortly after harvest - a potential advantage for more cuts during summer/fall.



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