Selecting the right forage species to grow can be a daunting task with long-term consequences, but an upcoming Indiana Forage Council seminar will help producers narrow down the options.
"Forages on the Farm - The Old, the New and Improved Ones Too" includes the council's annual meeting and is Jan. 22 at the Quality Inn, 5501 National Road E., Richmond. Keith Johnson, Purdue Extension forage specialist, will serve as moderator and Elysia Rodgers, Purdue Extension educator, will be one of the presenters.
"There are many choices when it comes to forage systems and the specific forage species to include in the system are even greater, Johnson said. "When producers make choices, they intend to stick with them for many years, so if they choose the wrong forage system and species, they can be penalized for many years."
Systems include growing annual crops for forage, such as corn for silage; a multitude of perennial crops that grow for many years; or niche crops, such as forage turnips that would be sown following winter wheat grain harvest.
Producers also have to decide if they will harvest the forage as green chop, hay or silage, or allow animals to graze pasture.
"Growers have to decide how they plan to use forages and when they need them," Johnson said. "That will help them determine if they should choose grasses, legumes or other crops, such as brassica crops."
The animals consuming the crop influence that decision, too. For example, lactating dairy cows require high-quality forage, such as timely harvested alfalfa, whereas spring-calving beef cows can graze corn residues in the fall.
Soil fertility and forage crop varieties also play a role. A wide range of crop technologies is available to producers, such as potato leafhopper resistance in alfalfa or the novel endophytic (within plant) fungus in tall fescue.
"There are a lot of improved varieties within species and a lot of new crops being tried," Johnson said. "Our hope for the seminar is that we can look at a lot of forage choices and help producers narrow them down to a few that would be worthy of more research for their individual farms."
The Indiana Forage Council annual meeting will start at 4:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m. The seminar will start at 7 p.m. Registration is $10 for IFC members and $20 for non-members. Attendance at the annual meeting is not a requirement for participation the rest of the evening.
Participants should register by Jan. 18 to Lisa Green at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-494-4783 and payment will be accepted at the door.
Speakers, in addition to Johnson and Rodgers, will be IFC President Dennis Brown of Byron Seeds and Greg Downing of The CISCO Companies.