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Quantifying yield and quality of perennial varieties and mixtures

by Alberta Beef Producers
Project Code: FRG.19.15
Completed: November 2018

Project Title:

Perennial Forage Variety Evaluation and Demonstration at Multiple Sites in Alberta

Researchers:

Dianne Westerlund cara-dw@telus.net

Chinook Applied Research Association, Battle River Research Group, Gateway Research Association, Foothills Forage and Grazing Association, Lakeland Agricultural Research Association, Mackenzie Applied Research Association, North Peace Applied Research Association, Peace Country Beef and Forage Association, Smokey Applied Research and Demonstration Association, West Central Forage Association, Barry Yaremcio (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry)

Background:

Producers are increasingly interested about perennial forage varieties and mixtures.  While some yield and agronomic data may be available on these varieties from seed companies, regional data specific to soil type and growing conditions has been limited due to very little participation in the Western Forage Variety Testing System in recent years.  In addition, quality data is seldom available.  Over 34 species, varieties and mixtures were grown at eight sites in Alberta.

Objectives:

The objectives of this study were to:

1)    Provide unbiased, current and comprehensive regional data regarding establishment, winter survival, yield, quality, and economics of specific species and varieties of perennial forage crops

2)    To identify perennial crop species and varieties that demonstrate superior establishment, hardiness, forage yield and nutritional quality characteristics in different eco-regions of Alberta

3)    To assess any benefits from growing mixtures of selected species

4)    To demonstrate the regional adaptability of various forage species and varieties alone and in mixed stands.

What They Did:

Twelve grass species, 15 legume species and 9 legume-grass mixes were seeded into cereal stubble or chem fallow at the following sites in 2016: Barrhead, Evansburg, Fort Kent, Fort Vermilion, High Prairie, Manning, Sedalia, and Sedgewick.  Establishment, height, botanical composition, dry matter weight, yield, and forage quality were measured for all plots.  A partial economic analysis was conducted for each variety, comprised of seeding, establishment, chemical, and harvest costs compared to the value of the forage.  Fleet meadow brome was used as the check for the grass varieties, AC Yellowhead alfalfa for the legumes, and Fleet meadow brome/AC Yellowhead alfalfa for the grass/legume mixtures at all sites.

What They Learned:

Sites were grouped by ecoregion for reporting purposes: Mixed Grassland (Sedalia), Aspen Parkland (Sedgewick), Boreal Transition (Fort Kent, Barrhead and Evansburg), Peace Lowland (Fort Vermilion, High Prairie and Manning).  Adverse environmental conditions in the Aspen Parkland (all sites), Boreal Transition (one site), and the Peace Lowland (one site) zones resulted in lost trials.  In the tables below, grasses, legumes and grass/legume mixes that performed similarly to or better than the check varieties for yield averaged over 2017 and 2018 are reported for each eco-zone, along with average nutritional data over both years, and combined two-year net return.

Mixed Grassland

 

Dry Matter Yield, lbs/acre (% check)1

Crude Protein (%)2

Total Digestible Nutrients (%)3

Net Return ($/acre)4

 

Grasses

Greenleaf pubescent wheatgrass

3,862 (139)

7.27

56.90

$417.67

AC Success hybrid brome

3,504 (126)

7.30

56.47

$342.45

AC Saltlander green wheatgrass

3,024 (109)

7.77

57.95

$240.40

AC Knowles hybrid brome

2,929 (105)

8.54

58.12

$237.42

Fleet meadow brome

2,782 (100)

8.01

55.01

$238.00

Kirk crested wheatgrass

2,650 (95)

6.55

57.70

$253.90

Legumes

AC Yellowhead alfalfa

3,429 (100)

16.13

59.65

$315.07

Rugged alfalfa

3,367 (98)

15.97

57.61

$316.13

Grass/Legume Mixtures

AC Success hybrid brome/AC Yellowhead alfalfa

3,192 (101)

12.10

58.03

$259.68

Fleet meadow brome/AC Yellowhead alfalfa

3,159.50 (100)

11.29

56.51

$262.89

AC Knowles hybrid brome/AC AC Yellowhead alfalfa

3,151 (100)

13.44

57.74

$248.91

AC Success hybrid brome/Spredor 5 alfalfa

3,071 (97)

13.36

58.57

$240.99

Checks were Fleet meadow brome, AC Yellowhead alfalfa, or Fleet/AC Yellowhead grass/legume mixture

1Average of sites and years 2017, 2018

2Average of sites and years 2017, 2018

3Average of sites and years 2017, 2018

4Average of sites, but total of years 2017, 2018

Boreal Transition Zone

 

Dry Matter Yield, lbs/acre (% check)1

Crude Protein (%)2

Total Digestible Nutrients (%)3

Net Return4

 

Grasses

AC Success hybrid brome

12,256 (129)

8.37

60.61

$1,171.38

Greenleaf pubescent wheatgrass

10,858 (115)

8.54

58.68

$1,041.73

Grindstad timothy

10,537.50 (111)

7.92

60.80

$1,057.15

Courtney tall fescue

10,503 (111)

8.36

60.44

$1,041.98

AC Saltlander green wheatgrass

10,275.50 (108)

9.28

61.17

$995.02

Fleet meadow brome

9,481.50 (100)

9.73

60.08

$900.15

AC Knowles hybrid brome

9,350.50 (99)

8.46

62.43

$915.06

Legumes

AC Yellowhead alfalfa

9,850.50 (100)

15.60

54.00

$922.64

Dalton alfalfa

9,319.50 (95)

15.01

55.45

$922.64

Grass/Legume Mixtures

AC Knowles hybrid brome/AC Mountainview sainfoin

12,213 (115)

10.29

61.97

$1,183.56

AC Success hybrid brome/AC AC Yellowhead alfalfa

11,220.50 (105)

10.10

58.52

$1,247.05

AC Knowles hybrid brome/AC AC Yellowhead alfalfa

10,969 (103)

11.42

59.42

$1,117.58

AC Knowles hybrid brome/Spredor 5 alfalfa

10,889 (102)

11.44

61.52

$1,130.20

Fleet meadow brome/AC Mountainview sainfoin

10,772.50 (101)

8.71

59.54

$1,083.30

Fleet meadow brome/AC Yellowhead alfalfa

10,639 (100)

10.49

58.51

$1,085.94

AC Success hybrid brome/Spredor 5 alfalfa

10168.50 (96)

10.99

58.94

$972.30

Checks were Fleet meadow brome, AC Yellowhead alfalfa, or Fleet/AC Yellowhead grass/legume mixture

1Average of sites and years 2017, 2018

2Average of sites and years 2017, 2018

3Average of sites and years 2017, 2018

4Average of sites, but total of years 2017, 2018

Peace Lowland Zone

 

Dry Matter Yield, lbs/acre (% check)1

Crude Protein (%)2

Total Digestible Nutrients (%)3

Net Return4

 

Grasses

AC Saltlander green wheatgrass

3,311 (125)

10.02

 

59.94

-$58.08

Killarney orchardgrass

3,257.50 (123)

9.01

62.54

-$37.59

Greenleaf pubescent wheatgrass

3,209.50 (121)

10.69

59.42

-$24.61

AC Admiral hybrid brome

3,168.50 (119)

10.83

63.49

-$42.92

Grindstad timothy

3,017.50 (114)

11.19

62.38

$17.29

Kirk crested wheatgrass 

2,872 (108)

10.48

60.22

-$25.71

AC Success hybrid brome

2,811 (106)

11.40

61.66

-$64.99

AC Knowles hybrid brome

2,776.50 (105)

10.92

62.06

-$65.38

Fleet meadow brome

2,655 (100)

10.40

62.62

-63.59

Legumes

AC Yellowhead alfalfa

3,429.50 (100)

15.52

59.47

$81.26

20-10 alfalfa

3,356 (98)

15.83

58.09

$90.35

PV Ultima alfalfa

3,350.50 (98)

15.42

58.27

$72.03

Oxley II cicer milkvetch

3,347 (98)

15.98

62.07

$85.43

Dalton alfalfa

3,297.50 (96)

15.52

57.42

$77.17

Spredor 5 alfalfa

3,280.50 (96)

15.70

57.38

$72.49

Assalt alfalfa

3,278.50 (96)

17.09

60.17

$73.71

44-44 alfalfa

3,256 (95)

15.77

59.37

$72.60

Grass/Legume Mixtures

Fleet meadow brome/AC Yellowhead alfalfa

3,614 (100)

16.51

63.03

$39.11

Checks were Fleet meadow brome, AC Yellowhead alfalfa, or Fleet/AC Yellowhead grass/legume mixture

1Average of sites and years 2017, 2018

2Average of sites and years 2017, 2018

3Average of sites and years 2017, 2018

4Average of sites, but total of years 2017, 2018

What It Means:

Adverse conditions such as drought, flooding or weed pressure during the establishment year have a large impact on the productivity of a forage stand regardless of variety. As 2018 was a dry year in most of the province, yields were significantly decreased; however, there were varieties that seemed to handle drought better than others.  Generally, the check varieties of legumes and grass/legume mixtures out-yielded the grass check varieties, but depending on eco-zone, some straight grass varieties were equal to or higher yielding than the top legume varieties and grass/legume mixtures.  While two growing seasons is a relatively short time frame, this speaks to the importance of ensuring regional adaptation for forage varieties because local growing conditions will have a large impact on the productivity of the stand. Alfalfa had better persistence in these trials than did the sainfoin or cicer milkvetch varieties.  Forage quality varied significantly between varieties, years, and even between sites in the same eco-zone.  This was especially apparent in nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium, sulphur, copper, manganese and zinc, but was also present in crude protein and energy values.  This variation highlights the importance of yearly forage testing to ensure animal requirements are being met.  Economic return, as expected, was most impacted by yield and seed cost of the various varieties.

This project was also supported by multiple municipalities and counties, various seed and chemical companies, and producer co-operators.


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