cover crops, forage, multispecies mix


Cover crops offer potential benefits for improving soil health, but establishment and management costs can be expensive. One way for farmers to recover these costs is to graze the forage, which benefits producers by integrating crop and animal production. More information is needed on the potential forage quantity and quality for grazing livestock of cover crops and mixed species of cover crops. Researchers have suggested that different plant species complement each other, but additional work is needed to determine how best to balance forage production and how competitive the various species are when added to a mix. Sixteen treatments were drill-seeded at the Southeast Kansas Research Station near Columbus, KS, in August 2014. Each treatment consisted of a three-way mix representing popular cover crops from the plant families Brassicaceae (brassicas), Poaceae (grasses), and Fabaceae (legumes). Eight species were planted, including forage radish (Raphanus sativus), purple-top turnip (Brassica rapa), oat (Avena sativa), rye (Secale cereale), barley (Hordeum vulgare), wheat (Triticum aestivium), Austrian winter pea (Pisum sativum subsp. arvense), and berseem clover (Trifolium alexandrinum). Small areas of each plot were clipped at 30-, 60-, and 90-day intervals. The clipped biomass was then weighed, sorted, and dried to determine biomass as well as species composition. Preliminary results indicate that average biomass produced at 30, 60 and 90 days was 1,250, 3,290, and 3,050 lb/a, respectively. These range from 470 to 1,940 lb/a 30 days after planting to 1,790 to 4,440 lb/a at 90 days after planting, depending on the cover crop mix.


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