Producing annual and alternative crops for forage

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This year there could be a high demand for alternative sources of forage in South Dakota. This is particularly true in the western half of the state where drought has negatively affected many of the perennial forages and pastures. In 2008 the West River Ag Research Center ran a study which evaluated cool and warm season annual forages.

The study was conducted at three locations in western South Dakota and included ten cool season annual forages and ten warm season annual forages at each site. The cool season annual forages evaluated were; field peas (var: Arvika or forage type), peas (var: Mozart or semi-leafless type), hairy vetch, oats, oat/peas, barley, barley/peas, spring triticale, spring triticale/pea and spring wheat.

The warm season annual forages in the trial were: teff grass, three types of foxtail millet (Manta, Golden German and White Wonder), Proso Millet, Pearl Millet, three types of Sorghum Sudan grass (Honey Sweet, Honey Sweet 2 and Honey Sweet BMR) and cow peas.

In the cool season forage plots, one site was harvested at three different times. On average forage yields increased with later harvesting dates. Barley had the greatest yield for the first and second harvesting dates and tied with spring triticale for highest yield at the third harvesting date. At the other two sites where plots were only harvested once, barley had the highest yield, with oats following closely. Across all sites the barley/pea mix yielded closely behind the straight barley and oats. Forage quality measured by crude protein content decreased with delayed harvest. Crude Protein was improved significantly by adding a legume to the cereal forage. Relative Feed Value was also improved as the legume portion was added to the forage.

Measurements were more difficult to stage in the warm season crops because the plant growth stages varied so much from one crop to the next. It was difficult to match individual harvesting dates to the same maturity stage for all crops. However on average, forage yield increased at later harvest dates or at harvest dates which occurred at later maturity stages in crops. When individual crops were compared, the sorghum hybrids gave the greatest yields while cowpea had the lowest forage yield for all harvest dates. It was noted on average that crude protein in crops decreased at later harvest dates. Cowpea had the highest crude protein of all the warm season forages. Teff grass had the highest crude protein among the warm season cereal crops at all harvest dates.

Source: Ruth Beck



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