Warm Season and Cool Season Cereals: Forage Yield & Quality

Trial Site: Fairview Research Farm

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2017 Annual Report


Because of the increasing number of acres of cocktail mixtures in parts of the Peace, there is a need to regularly test new annual crops as they are introduced to the Peace for their adaptation, potential forage yield, and suitability for soil health improvement and inclusion in cocktail mixtures. Warm season crops such as red proso millets have been grown for greenfeed for some time now in the Peace region. Reports by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) at Weyburn have shown that in Western Canada warm season crops can provide a high-yielding alternative to barley and oats, and they can be utilized for greenfeed and swath grazing. Warm season plants require higher soil temperatures for germination in spring and they grow well under high temperatures. It is important to note that, warm-season grasses cannot tolerate frost.

Objectives

1. To continue to assess the performance of warm season annual forage-type cereal grasses for forage yield and feed quality, and for their suitability for inclusion in cocktail mixtures for beef cattle production.

2. To compare forage yield and quality of warm season cereals with cool season cereals.


Methods

  • Project Site: Fairview Research Farm (NW5-82-3W6) on RR #35, MD of Fairview.

  • Previous crop: Chemical fallow in 2016; forage-type brassicas in 2015

  • Site soil information (0-6” depth): Soil tests done at Exova laboratory (Edmonton) prior to seeding showed pH = 5.8 and soil organic matter = 7.0 %.

  • The field was cultivated (disked and harrowed) before seeding.

  • Experimental Design: Randomized complete block design in 3 replications.

Treatments: 3 cool season forage-type spring cereal crops (checks 1, 2 & 3) and 6 warm season grasses listed below were tested:

Cool season forage-type cereals

1. CDC Maverick barley (check 1) seeded @ 27.8 plants/ft2

2. Bunker triticale (check 2) seeded @ 34.2 plants/ft2

3. CDC Haymaker oats (check 3) seeded @ 27.8 plants/ft2

Warm season forage-type crops

1. Red proso millet @ 22 lbs/acre

2. White proso millet @ 22 lbs/acre

3. German millet @ 22 lbs/acre

4. Siberian millet @ 22 lbs/acre

5. Teff @ 10 lbs/acre

6. Sorghum-sudangrass @ 26 lbs/acre


Seeding Date & Rate: Seeding was done on May 30


Seeding method: 6-row Fabro plot drill with 9” row spacing


Fertility (actual lbs/acre): 89 N + 50 P + 29 K + 24 S


Plot size: 11.04 m2 (118.8 ft2 )  Spraying: In-crop spraying was done once with 2,4-D-700


Measurements taken were plant height, lodging, forage yield & forage quality.


Barley was harvested at soft-dough stage, oats at milk stage and triticale at late milk stage. The millets were harvested at the early heading and teff was at flowering. Sorghum-sudangrass was harvested at heading out stage.

Results and Interpretation

Plant Height, Flowering & Lodging

For both cool and warm season cereals tested, sorghum-sudangrass grew tallest (142 cm). Teff, on the other hand, was the shortest crop.


No lodging was observed for any of the tested crops


All crops flowered or headed out, but German millet and sorghum-sudangrass headed out much later than any of the other crops tested. For the warm season cereals, both proso millets flowered first, followed by teff, then Siberian millet, German millet, and later on sorghum-sudangrass.


Forage Dry Matter (DM) Yield

Generally, forage DM yield was higher for cool season forage-type cereal crops than warm season crops. The forage DM yield for cool season crops was higher for CDC Maverick barley and Bunker triticale than CDC Haymaker oats. For the warm season crops, forage DM yield in order of highest to lowest was: red proso millet > white proso millet > sorghum-sudangrass > teff. Overall, cool season crops yielded 1342-5358 lbs DM/acre more forage than warm season crops.


Though warm season crops did not yield as much as cool season crops, it is evident that the warm season crops tested here (except for teff) can provide a high-yielding alternative to barley, oats and triticale. Warm season can be utilized for greenfeed, swath grazing and cocktail mixtures. It is important to note that warm season plants require higher soil temperatures for germination in spring, they grow well under high temperatures, and they cannot tolerate frost.


Forage Quality Crude Protein (CP): The forage CP was lower for cool season than warm season crops. For the cool season crops, the forage CP was highest for CDC Haymaker oats (12.4% CP). For the warm season crops, the forage CP was as high as 19.3% (teff). All warm season crops had >14.0% CP.

Of the 3 cool season crops tested, only CDC Haymaker oats had sufficient CP for mature beef cattle. The other 2 cool season cereals (barley and triticale) were only able to meet the protein requirements of dry gestating beef cows. All warm season crops however, far exceeded the protein requirements of all categories of both young and mature beef cattle.


Energy: The forage total digestible nutrients (TDN) varied from 60% TDN for CDC Haymaker oats to 69% TDN for CDC Maverick barley. The forage TDN of warm season crops compared well with cool season crops. All crops tested were adequate for the amount of TDN needed by a pregnant beef cow (55% TDN at midpregnancy & 60% TDN at late-pregnancy). For mature lactating beef cows, only 3 (CDC Maverick barley, teff and sorghum-sudangrass) of the 9 crops tested had sufficient TDN for this category of mature beef cattle.


Minerals

The forage Ca was highest for teff (0.64% Ca), followed by sorghum-sudangrass with 0.59% Ca. The other crops tested varied from 0.24 to 0.39% Ca.


All crops had similar forage P content, only varying from 0.15 to 0.18% P.


The forage K, S and Cu was higher for sorghum-sudangrass than all other crops tested. The warm season crops generally had more forage K and Cu than the cool season crops.


In terms of whether or not the crops have been able to meet measured mineral requirements, all crops did meet the Ca, P (except for red proso millet and sorghum-sudangrass) and S (except CDC Maverick barley) requirements of dry gestating beef cows. For a lactating beef cow, only teff had sufficient forage Ca. None of the crops tested had adequate P for lactating beef cows. Only CDC Maverick slightly fell short of the S requirement for lactating beef cows, while other crops had enough S for a nursing beef cow.


All crops were able to meet the requirements of K, Mg, Fe, Zn and Mn (except for CDC Maverick barley) of mature beef cattle.


Most of the warm season crops were able to meet the requirements of Cu for young and mature beef cattle.

Conclusion

Though generally forage DM yield was higher for cool season forage-type cereal crops than warm season crops, the present study shows that warm season cereal crops (except Siberian millet and teff) would be able to produce substantial forage DM yield which could be of immense benefit as alternatives to cool season crops. The forage DM yield for cool season crops was higher for CDC Maverick barley and Bunker triticale than CDC Haymaker oats. For the warm season crops, forage DM yield in order from highest to lowest was: red proso millet > white proso millet > sorgum-sudangrass > teff. The forage CP was lower for the cool season than warm season crops. All warm season crops had >14.0% CP, indicating that warm season crops would have enough CP for young and mature beef cattle. The forage TDN of warm season crops compared well with cool season crops. All crops tested were adequate for the TDN required by a pregnant beef cow (55% TDN at mid-pregnancy & 60% TDN at late-pregnancy). For mature lactating beef cows, only 3 (CDC Maverick barley, teff and sorghum-sudangrass) of the 9 crops tested had sufficient TDN for this category of mature beef cattle.

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