What's Cropping Up? Blog

Articles from the bi-monthly Cornell Field Crops newsletter

August 7, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on What’s Cropping Up? Volume 28, Number 3 – July/August 2018

What’s Cropping Up? Volume 28, Number 3 – July/August 2018

July 23, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Another Shocker: Organic Wheat with High Inputs 86 Bu/Acre Vs.79 Bu/Acre for Conventional Wheat (both yield 80 bushels/acre with recommended inputs)

Another Shocker: Organic Wheat with High Inputs 86 Bu/Acre Vs.79 Bu/Acre for Conventional Wheat (both yield 80 bushels/acre with recommended inputs)

Bill Cox, Eric Sandsted, and Phil Atkins

Conventional wheat with recommended inputs (on the right), despite more yellowing of the leaves in the lower canopy in mid-June, yielded similarly (~80 bushels/acre) as high input conventional wheat (on the left).

We initiated a 4-year study at the Aurora Research Farm in 2015 to compare the corn, soybean, and wheat/red clover rotation with different crop sequences in conventional and organic cropping systems during the 36-month transition and early certification period to an organic cropping system. One of the many objectives of the study was to determine if corn, soybean, and wheat respond similarly to management inputs (high and recommended) in conventional and organic cropping systems. This article will discuss the agronomic performance of organic wheat and conventional wheat with recommended and high inputs in the 4th year of the study (red clover-corn-soybean-wheat/red clover).

We no-tilled a treated (insecticide/fungicide seed treatment) Pioneer soft red wheat variety, 25R46, in the conventional cropping system; and the untreated 25R46 in the organic cropping system at two seeding rates, ~1.2 million seeds/acre (recommended input) and ~1.7 million seeds/acre (high input treatment) with a John Deere 1590 No-Till Grain Drill (7.5 inch spacing between drills) on September 27, the day after soybean harvest. We applied about 200 lbs. /acre of 10-20-20 as a starter fertilizer to wheat in both conventional treatments. We also applied Harmony Extra (~0.75 oz. /acre) to the high input conventional treatment at early tillering or GS 2 stage in the fall (October 27) for control of winter perennials (dandelion in particular).

Organic compared with conventional wheat yielded similarly (recommended inputs) or 9% higher (high inputs) at the Aurora Research Farm in 2018.

We applied the maximum amount of Kreher’s composted chicken manure (5-4-3 analysis) that would flow through the drill as a starter fertilizer (~150 lbs. of material/acre) in both organic treatments. We also broadcast Kreher’s composted manure the day after planting  to provide ~50 lbs. of actual N /acre (assuming 50% available N from the composted manure) in the high input treatment of the organic cropping system. In addition, we also added Sabrex, an organic seed treatment with Tricoderma strains, to the seed hopper of 25R46 in the high input treatment in the organic cropping system.

We frost-seeded red clover into all the wheat treatments on March 22. We applied ~70 lbs. of actual N/acre (33-0-0, ammonium nitrate) in the recommended input treatment of conventional wheat on March 23, about a week before green-up. In the high input conventional treatment, we applied ~50 lbs. of actual N/acre (33-0-0) on March 23 and then applied another 50 lbs. of actual N/acre on April 26 about 10 days before the jointing stage (GS 6). We also applied a fungicide (Prosaro at 4 oz. /acre) to the high input treatment on May 30.

We applied Kreher’s composted chicken manure to provide ~70 lbs. of available N/acre to organic wheat in the recommended input treatment on March 21. Also, we applied an additional ~50 lbs. of available N/acre to organic wheat in the high input treatment on March 21. All the plots were harvested with an Almaco plot combine on July 10. We collected a 1000 gram from each plot to determine kernel moisture and grain N% in the laboratory.

We presented data on wheat emergence as well as wheat densities and weed densities in the fall (http://blogs.cornell.edu/whatscroppingup/2017/12/01/organic-compared-with-conventional-wheat-once-again-has-more-rapid-emergence-greater-early-season-plant-densities-and-fewer-fall-weeds-when-following-soybean-in-no-till-conditions/) and weed densities in the early spring (http://blogs.cornell.edu/whatscroppingup/2018/05/25/no-till-organic-wheat-continues-to-have-low-weed-densities-in-early-spring-april-9-at-the-tillering-stage-gs-2-3/) in previous news articles. Briefly, organic wheat had more plants/acre, and similar weed densities in the fall and spring (Table 1). This is the second time that organic compared to conventional wheat no-tilled into soybean stubble had better stands and very low weed densities. Organic growers who harvest soybean fields with low winter weed pressure (dandelion, mallow, chickweed, henbit, mayweed, etc.) should consider no-tilling organic wheat, especially if the soybean field had been moldboard plowed. If soybeans were no-tilled into roller-crimped rye in early June, the rye residue could harbor significant slug/snail populations during the cool and damp fall mornings, which could impact wheat stands.

A cropping system x management input interaction was observed for wheat yield in 2018 (Table 2). Organic and conventional wheat yielded 80 bushels/acre with recommended inputs in 2018. Organic wheat showed a 6 bushel/acre response to high input management (500,000 more seeds/acre and an additional 30 lbs. of N/acre). In contrast, conventional wheat did not respond to high input management, despite 500,000 more seeds/acre, a fall herbicide application, 30 lbs. more N/acre, and a fungicide application. Once again, conventional wheat did not respond to the “new way” of managing wheat, high input wheat, which is similar to results that we have observed in all years with dry springs when we compared high and recommended input wheat in the 1980s and 2000s. Obviously, there is no need to apply additional N or apply a fungicide to wheat during dry springs because fertilizer N applied in late March or early April will not be lost to the environment via leaching or denitrification and disease pressure is low.

In 2016, a year with very similar precipitation patterns to 2018 (5.88 inches vs. 6.5 inches of precipitation, respectively, from April 1 through June 30), organic wheat yielded ~7.5% lower than conventional wheat when averaged across input treatments with no response to high input treatments in either cropping system(http://blogs.cornell.edu/whatscroppingup/2016/09/26/organic-wheat-looked-great-but-yielded-7-5-less-than-conventional-wheat-in-20152016/). Temperatures in May when N demand by wheat is the highest, averaged 62.0o in 2018 but only 56.5o in 2016. Cool temperatures limit N mineralization from organic sources so in 2016 we speculated that the use of an organic N source may have resulted in less available N to the organic wheat crop. Indeed, grain N% concentration in organic (1.66%) vs. conventional wheat (2.03%) was much lower in 2016 lending credence to the lack of available N as the major factor in the lower organic wheat yields. In 2018, conventional compared with organic wheat once again had greater grain N% concentration (1.99% vs. 1.77%, respectively, Table 2) but the difference was not as vast. Evidently, the warm May conditions allowed for release of adequate N from Kreher’s composted manure to maximize yields. May of 2018, however, was the second warmest on record in central and western NY. In years with cool late April and May conditions, organic wheat production may face N availability challenges because of low mineralization rates of organic N sources.

In conclusion, organic wheat yielded the same as conventional wheat with recommended inputs and yielded 9% greater than conventional wheat with high inputs. Kreher’s composted chicken manure, however, is very expensive (~$300/ton with only 5% N analysis of which we assumed only 50% N availability) so N costs approximated $6/lb. of N or ~12x higher than the ammonium nitrate source for conventional wheat. Consequently, organic compared with conventional wheat with recommended inputs probably had lower returns in 2018, despite being eligible for the organic price premium in the 4th year of this study (we will conduct a complete economic analysis of this 4-year study in late fall or spring of next year). Organic wheat with high inputs probably had similar economic returns as conventional wheat with high inputs, a common practice among some NY wheat growers, because the 12x higher cost for N in organic wheat would be offset by the higher cost for treated seed, fall herbicide application, the second N application, and late spring fungicide application in high input conventional wheat. Most organic wheat growers, however, probably use a dry solid manure source that is far less expensive than Kreher’s composted chicken manure so the economic analyses in this study will be slanted against organic wheat. On the other hand, the use of dry solid manure is far more difficult to apply precisely and at the correct time to insure availability to the wheat crop in May during stem elongation so the yield data may be slanted towards wheat in this study.

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June 6, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on What’s Cropping Up? Vol. 28 No. 2 – May/June 2018

What’s Cropping Up? Vol. 28 No. 2 – May/June 2018

June 5, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on More Rapid Emergence but Lower Early Plant Densities (V1 Stage) in Organic Compared to Conventional 2018 Soybean

More Rapid Emergence but Lower Early Plant Densities (V1 Stage) in Organic Compared to Conventional 2018 Soybean

Bill Cox, Eric Sandsted, and Phil Atkins

Fig. 1. Organic soybean emerged in about 8 days after planting in 2018.

We initiated a 4-year study at the Aurora Research Farm in 2015 to compare different sequences of the corn-soybean-wheat/red clover rotation in conventional and organic cropping systems under recommended and high input management during the transition period (and beyond) to an organic cropping system. Unfortunately, we were unable to plant wheat after soybean in the fall of 2016 because green stem in soybean, compounded with very wet conditions in October and early November, delayed soybean harvest until November 9, too late for wheat planting. Consequently, soybean followed corn as well as wheat/red cover in 2018 so we are now comparing different sequences of the corn-soybean-wheat/red clover rotation with a corn-soybean rotation (Table 1). This article will focus on soybean emergence (days) and early plant densities (% early plant establishment) at the early 1st node stage (V1 stage) in 2018.  

Fig. 2. Conventional soybean emerged in about 9.5 days after planting in 2018 so is further behind organic soybean 11 days after planting.

The fields were plowed on May 17 and then cultimulched on the morning of May 18, the day of planting. We used the White Air Seeder to plant the treated (insecticide/fungicide) GMO soybean variety, P22T41R2, and the non-treated non-GMO variety, 921A20, at two seeding rates, ~150,000 (recommended input) and ~200,000 seeds/acre (high input). P21A20 is a not an isoline of P22T41R2 so only the maturity of the two varieties and not the genetics are similar between the two cropping systems. We treated the non-GMO, 921A20, in the seed hopper with the organic seed treatment, Sabrex, in the high input treatment (high seeding rate). We used the typical 15” row spacing in conventional soybean and the typical 30” row spacing (for cultivation of weeds) in organic soybean. Consequently, the soybean comparison is not as robust as the corn or wheat comparisons in this study because of the different row spacing and genetics between the two cropping systems.

Warm conditions (64.7 F average temperature and 0.81 inches of precipitation) during the 10 days following planting resulted in fairly rapid emergence. Organic soybean required about 8 days for emergence but conventional soybean required about 9.5 days (Table 2). The more rapid soybean emergence in the organic system is similar to previous years (http://blogs.cornell.edu/whatscroppingup/2017/06/06/soybean-emergence-and-early-plant-densities-v1-v2-stage-in-conventional-and-organic-cropping-systems-in-2017/). In previous years, however, variety differences rather than cropping system differences probably influenced days to emergence with P92Y21, the variety used in the organic system from 2015-2017, with a higher field emergence score (8 out of 10 rating) compared with P22T41R2 (7 out of 10). In 2018, however, we had to switch to P21A20 (P92Y21 no longer available), which had the same field emergence rating (7 out of 10) as P22T41R2. So variety differences probably did not contribute to emergence differences between the two cropping systems. The organic cropping system also was planted in 30 inch rows so there were 8.5 to 11.5 seeds emerging per 1 foot of row in the organic system compared with 4.25 to 5.75 seeds emerging in 1 foot of row in the conventional system. In 2018, however, there was no real soil crust because of intermittent rains after planting so seed spacing within the row was probably not a factor. The final factor to consider is that the insecticide/fungicide seed treatment may have delayed emergence in conventional soybean, as it seemed to delay wheat emergence (http://blogs.cornell.edu/whatscroppingup/2017/12/01/organic-compared-with-conventional-wheat-once-again-has-more-rapid-emergence-greater-early-season-plant-densities-and-fewer-fall-weeds-when-following-soybean-in-no-till-conditions/).

We estimated soybean plant densities at the early V1 stage (June 1), about a week after the rotary hoeing operation in organic soybean. Conventional soybean generally had higher plant establishment rates (78-91%) compared with organic soybean (67 to 76%, Table 2). In previous years, conventional vs. organic soybeans had greater early plant establishment (2016), lower early plant establishment (2017), or similar early plant establishment rates (2015). We did note some damage, but relatively low damage, to organic soybean from the rotary hoe operation, which occurred 6 days after planting. Based on previous data, however, we do not think that rotary hoe damage was totally responsible for the 10 to 15% lower plant establishment rate in organic soybeans. The higher compared with recommended input treatment of organic soybean had higher early plant establishment rates in fields with corn and soybean as the 2014 crops so perhaps the use of the Sabrex seed treatment improved early plant establishment.

In conclusion, early plant populations in conventional soybean (15-inch rows) in the recommended input treatment exceeded the 114,000 plant/acre threshold limit for maximum soybean yields in NY. Consequently, both high and recommended input treatments in conventional soybean have similar yield potential at this stage of development. We have not really established a plant/acre threshold limit for organic soybeans in New York (because very few soybeans are grown in 30-inch rows) so it is not clear if early plant stands of 100,000 to 105,000 plants/acre are adequate for maximum yield. Conceivably, more plants will emerge after our stand counts to increase early plant establishment rates in organic soybean. On the other hand, future cultivations, especially the close to the row cultivation, could decrease organic soybean stands by another 5%. Furthermore, lower stands in the recommended input treatment of organic soybean may allow for increased weed interference, which has the potential to reduce yields. Ironically, the year that organic compared with conventional soybean had greater early plant establishment rate was the only year (2017) that organic soybean yielded lower. It will be interesting to see how the 2018 soybean growing season plays out.

 

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May 25, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on No-Till Organic Wheat Continues to Have Low Weed Densities in Early Spring (April 9) at the Tillering Stage (GS 2-3)

No-Till Organic Wheat Continues to Have Low Weed Densities in Early Spring (April 9) at the Tillering Stage (GS 2-3)

Bill Cox and Eric Sandsted, Soil and Crops Sciences Section, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University

From left to right: Organic wheat with high inputs, organic wheat with recommended inputs, 10 foot border, conventional wheat with recommended inputs, and conventional wheat with high inputs.

We initiated a 4-year study at the Aurora Research Farm in 2015 to compare the corn-soybean-wheat/red clover rotation in different sequences under conventional and organic cropping systems during and after the transition to an organic cropping system. This article will discuss weed densities in conventional and organic wheat.

We provided the management inputs for wheat in both cropping systems under high and recommended input treatments in a previous article (http://blogs.cornell.edu/whatscroppingup/2017/12/01/organic-compared-with-conventional-wheat-once-again-has-more-rapid-emergence-greater-early-season-plant-densities-and-fewer-fall-weeds-when-following-soybean-in-no-till-conditions/), but we will briefly review them. We used a John Deere 1590 No-Till Grain Drill to plant a treated (insecticide/fungicide seed treatment) Pioneer soft red wheat variety, 25R46, in the conventional cropping system; and an untreated 25R46, in the organic cropping system on September 27 at two seeding rates, ~1.2 million seeds/acre (recommended management treatment for a September planting date) and ~1.7 million seeds/acre (high input treatment). The wheat was no-tilled in both cropping systems because of the paucity of visible weeds after soybean harvest (9/23). We also applied Harmony Extra (~0.75 oz/acre on 10/27) to the high input conventional treatment at the tiller initiation stage (GS 2-October 27) for control of winter annuals (chickweed, henbit, and common mallow) and winter perennials (dandelion).

We also reported in the above article that we walked along the entire wheat plot (~100 feet X 10 feet) to count all the weeds on 10/27 just prior to the Harmony Extra application to the high input conventional wheat plots. As in 2015, organic compared with conventional wheat generally had lower weed densities in the fall, especially in the field in which corn was the 2014 crop (Table 1). Weed densities, however, were very low so we speculated that yields would probably not be compromised. Dandelion was the dominant weed specie in the fall in all plots. Apparently, the last cultivation of soybean on July 20 removed existing or late-emerging dandelions, whereas the observed weeds in the conventional cropping system apparently emerged after the June 21 Roundup application.

Weather conditions were extremely warm in October (6 degrees above normal) so wheat (and weeds) got off to an excellent start. Ensuing weather conditions, however, were much colder than normal with November, December, January, March, and April averaging more than 2.5 degrees below normal. In fact, March 1-April 30, was the 3rd coldest period on record at the Aurora Research Farm (34.20 average temperature) (http://climod.nrcc.cornell.edu/runClimod/cb248220aa6e4a42/10/), only eclipsed by the infamous 1975 and 1978 early springs (average temperatures of 34.10). Consequently, winter wheat greened up about 2 weeks later than normal in 2018. It is not clear on how the cold winter and early spring conditions affected winter annual and perennial weed development but probably it was delayed.

Early spring weed densities were taken at the GS2-3 stage on 04/10, about 10 days after green-up, again by counting all the weeds along the entire length of the plots. Dominant weeds included dandelion, common mallow, and chickweed. As in the fall, weed densities were extremely low and probably would have no significant effects on yield (Table 1). There was a cropping system by input interaction in the field with corn as the 2014 crop because of very low weed densities in conventional wheat with high inputs (Harmony Extra application) and higher weed densities in organic wheat with high inputs (seeding rates and N rates).

High input management in organic wheat did not reduce weed densities, which agrees with the 2016 data (http://blogs.cornell.edu/whatscroppingup/2016/04/05/no-till-organic-wheat-continues-to-have-low-weed-densities-in-early-spring-march-31-at-the-tillering-stage-gs-2-3/). Some organic growers believe that wheat should be planted at a higher seeding rate to reduce weed densities, but our study does not support that speculation. Our data does support the idea that if weed densities are low in organic soybean (<2.5 weeds/m2), organic wheat growers can no-till wheat into soybean stubble without fear of high weed densities. More research, however, should be conducted to compare no-till and conventional tillage organic wheat.

In conclusion, no-till organic and conventional wheat had very low spring weed densities about 10 days after green-up. The cool conditions in April prevented rapid shading by the wheat canopy so perhaps the weeds that were present in early April may interfere with wheat yields, but impacts should be minimal because of the low densities. On April 15, organic wheat looked as good as conventional wheat (picture). It remains to be seen, however, if Kreher’s composted chicken manure, the N source for organic wheat (60 lbs. /acre of actual N pre-plant +50 lbs. /acre of actual N on 3/21 in high input and the single 75 lbs. /acre of actual N as a spring application in recommended management) can provide enough available N for maximum yield in organic wheat.

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May 1, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Forage Quality of Spring Growth

Forage Quality of Spring Growth

J.H. Cherney and D.J.R. Cherney
Soil & Crop Science Section, and Dept. of Animal Science, Cornell University

As we are rapidly approaching another spring season of forage growth, it may be useful to consider some of the issues that affect the assessment of spring forage growth. Since most of the forage in NY is alfalfa-grass mixtures, and most of the forage becomes dairy cattle feed, we are focusing on the optimum timing for harvest of mixtures for high quality dairy feed. High quality alfalfa and grass forage will significantly increase milk production and increase the proportion of homegrown feeds in rations. Fiber digestibility (NDFD) is the most important forage factor affecting milk production.

For high producing dairy cows, an increase of one-percentage unit NDFD may increase milk production as much as one pound of milk per cow per day. Higher NDFD in forages can be achieved by harvesting earlier, or by selecting higher NDFD alfalfa and grass varieties. Almost all alfalfa seed companies have a “high quality” alfalfa variety, although there is likely a considerable range in quality among “high quality” varieties. There have been very few attempts to breed grass varieties for high quality, but there are some differences among grass species.

Optimum spring harvest should not be based on NDFD, however, but needs to be based on the optimum total fiber content (NDF) of the forage. Rations can be easily balanced for protein and energy, not so easy to balance for fiber.

Spring 2017 Sampling of Forage Quality

We monitored first production year spring growth of alfalfa and grass in 2017. Alfalfa varieties sown were: HarvXtra-1, HarvXtra-2, Hi-Gest 360, LegenDairy HXD, N-R-Gee, SW315LH, and Pioneer 55H94. Grass varieties sown were: Driftless meadow fescue, Bariane tall fescue, Barlegro orchardgrass, Dividend VL orchardgrass, sparse-heading orchardgrass, Fojtan festulolium, and Perseus festulolium. Alfalfa and grass were grown separately with three field replicates, and grass was fertilized with 100 lbs N at spring green up.

Protein

Alfalfa quality does not appear to be affected by the presence of grass in the stand, such that evaluation of alfalfa in pure stands should produce similar results to evaluating alfalfa grown in mixtures. In general, grass quality also is not greatly affected by alfalfa in a mixed stand, with one exception. From previous studies, we conclude that grass crude protein (CP) content in alfalfa-grass mixtures is directly proportional to the percent alfalfa in the mixed stand.

In a pure stand, grass CP will decline linearly (Fig. 1). In a mixed stand that is predominantly alfalfa, grass CP will not decline as quickly as in a pure grass stand, because of a continuous supply of N from alfalfa. In several previous alfalfa-grass studies in NY conducted on dairy farms, a spring harvest around May 25 consistently resulted in grass with over 17% CP, when the stands were 30% grass. Total alfalfa+grass CP in a 30% grass stand generally exceeds 20% CP at spring harvest.

Fig. 1. Crude protein content of alfalfa and grass grown separately in spring 2017.

Note: Beware, this article contains differences between varieties sometimes expressed as a percentage unit change (e.g. NDFD difference of 54% to 50% = 4 percentage unit drop in NDFD) and sometimes appropriately expressed as a percent change (e.g. lignin difference of 6% to 5% = 17% drop in lignin).

Pattern of Forage Quality in Spring

In a normal spring, forage quality of both alfalfa and grass will generally fluctuate until around May 10. There may not much to be gained by collecting forage samples for analysis (e.g. scissors-cut samples) the first week of May. After about May 10, NDF and NDFD often show linear patterns of increase or decrease (Fig. 2 & 3). Grass typically gains about 1 percentage unit of NDF per day in the spring, and was relatively normal in 2017 in spite of somewhat abnormal temperatures. Alfalfa, on the other hand, matured faster than normal the last half of May. Alfalfa typically gains about 0.6 to 0.7 percentage units of NDF per day prior to spring harvest.

Fig. 2. Below normal temperatures in early May, followed by average and above average temperatures, resulted in alfalfa maturing faster than normal in the second half of May.

Fig. 3. Grass NDFD declined at a relatively normal rate in spring 2017, while alfalfa NDFD declined much faster than normal.

Although alfalfa was maturing at a faster rate than normal in late May, maturity at spring harvest was similar to a normal year. On May 25, a typical spring harvest date for alfalfa-grass in central NY, alfalfa averaged 37% NDF, compared to 57% for grass. NDFD on May 25 averaged 49% for alfalfa and 72% for grass. High NDFD in grass is the primary reason that alfalfa-grass mixtures can result in an excellent forage for high producing dairy cows.

Alfalfa Variety Differences

We have found in other studies that HarvXtra (Hx) types tend to be slightly later in maturity than other alfalfas, when measuring mean maturity stage. This leads to a slightly lower NDF content in Hx on any given date (Fig. 4). Hx also has a slightly lower rate of NDF accumulation. On May 11, Hx is about 1 percentage unit lower, while on May 29 it is a little over 2 percentage units lower than other alfalfas.

Fig. 4. NDF accumulation in HarvXtra types, compared to other alfalfa varieties.

NDFD of Hx types was consistently higher than other alfalfas (Fig. 5), with a slightly faster rate of decline in NDFD/day. On May 11, Hx was 4 percentage units higher, and on May 29 it was 3 percentage units higher in NDFD than the average of other alfalfa varieties.

Fig. 5. Fiber digestibility of HarvXtra type alfalfa, compared with other varieties.

As we have found in a number of other trials, Hx is consistently much lower in lignin content than other alfalfa varieties (Fig. 6). Hx also had a slightly lower rate of lignin accumulation. On May 11, Hx was 12% lower, and on May 29 it was 14% lower in lignin than the average of other alfalfa varieties.

Fig. 6. Pattern of lignin accumulation in spring alfalfa growth.

Grass Species Differences

In grasses, NDF typically accumulates around 1 percentage unit/day in spring growth (Fig. 7). Grass species in this trial were all similar in NDF content and rate of NDF accumulation with one exception. Perseus festulolium is a ryegrass-type of festulolium very different from fescue-type festuloliums (e.g. Fojtan). Total fiber content is very low in Perseus spring growth, and NDF accumulates at a slightly lower rate in Perseus compared to other grasses. A May 25 spring harvest of Perseus was over 9 percentage units lower in NDF than other grasses. The serious problem with Perseus and probably all festuloliums, however, is the tendency to head out quickly in regrowth, making second harvest festulolium forage much lower in quality than other grasses. Festuloliums are not a particularly good option as a companion crop with alfalfa for dairy cow forage for that reason.

Fig. 7. Rate of NDF accumulation in grasses in spring growth.

As it is less mature and much lower in NDF, Perseus is also considerably higher in NDFD than most grasses in spring growth, except for meadow fescue (Fig. 8). Perseus is significantly lower in NDFD than other grasses in regrowth, however, due to rapid heading in regrowth. Meadow fescue NDFD appears to decline at a slower rate than with other grasses. At the time of a typical spring harvest, meadow fescue is similar in NDFD to Perseus festulolium, and is 11% higher in NDFD than other grasses.

Fig. 8. Fiber digestibility of grasses in spring growth.

Lignin content of meadow fescue and Perseus festulolium did not differ, but both were significantly lower than all other grasses (Fig. 9). Also, lignin accumulates at a slower rate for meadow fescue and Perseus, compared to other grasses. On May 20, meadow fescue was 22% lower in lignin than other grasses, excluding Perseus.

Fig. 9. Lignin content of grasses in spring growth.

We have collected 19 meadow fescue varieties from North America and Europe that will be sown as pure grass stands in Ithaca, NY and Burlington, VT this spring. Heading dates and quality data will be gathered in 2019. We will also plant these meadow fescue varieties in binary mixtures with one alfalfa variety in Ithaca and in Lewis County, to evaluate competition and grass percentage of mixtures.

Summary

On May 25, 2017, a typical central NY date for spring harvest, grass averaged 20 percentage units higher NDF than alfalfa, but also averaged 23 percentage units higher NDFD. Among alfalfa varieties, HarvXtra types were slightly lower in NDF, somewhat higher in NDFD, and much lower in lignin content than other alfalfa varieties. Being a predominantly ryegrass-type of festulolium, Perseus was very low in NDF and high in NDFD in spring growth, but typically heads out in regrowth, resulting in relatively low quality regrowth forage.

Meadow fescue is high in NDFD and the decline in NDFD per day is not as great as with other grasses. On May 25, this resulted in meadow fescue NDFD being 11% higher than other grasses, except Perseus. While meadow fescue is consistently higher quality than other grasses commonly sown in the Northeast, it is not necessarily better in some other regions of the country, particularly if the location is near the southern limit of meadow fescue’s productive range. The relatively rapid decline in forage NDFD in spring growth (nearly 1 percentage unit/day) makes a timely spring harvest critical for high forage quality.

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