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Forage Options Following Wheat

Forage Options Following Wheat

by Joel Bagg, Forage Development Specialist & District Sales Manager, Quality Seeds Ltd


With low first- and second-cut yields in many parts of Ontario due to dry weather, there is much interest in following winter wheat and other cereals with a forage crop to help supplement forage inventories. Not only can this approach produce some extra feed, it also provides cover crop benefits. There are a few double-crop forage options that can provide some cheaper, good quality haylage or baleage. These options worked very well in a very dry 2012. Summer seeding alfalfa rather than waiting until next spring can provide the benefit of a full yield next year without the usual establishment year yield loss.

Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, and every situation is different depending on the immediate forage needs for the coming winter and forage quality requirements, as well astiming and rotation. Timely rains after seeding are needed for good growth and yields.

The challenge is getting the wheat harvested, the volunteer wheat controlled, and the next crop seeded in a timely manner. An early wheat harvest will help by providing more time. Competition from volunteer wheat can be a significant problem.  Without vernalization (going through a winter) winter wheat will not form a stem in the fall to provide significant growth and yields are very limited. A lot of volunteer wheat can result when light grain goes through the combine. One approach to reduce the problem is to do some light tillage (at least behind the combine swath) to encourage the grain to germinate. A burndown with glyphosate 7 – 10 days later will remove much of the volunteer grain. Of course this takes time, and as the calendar gets later some options are lost. 


QS “Evolution” Italian Ryegrass


  • high to exceptionally high forage quality (high NDFD, RFQ), palatability and intake suitable for high producing dairy cows
  • harvest in October and again next May - can be followed by corn silage, soybeans, sorghums, or it can continue to be harvested every 28 days next year
  • provides additional forage this fall as well as next spring


Summer Seeding Oats For Forage


  • October harvest provides additional forage this fall
  • does not overwinter - follow by seeding another crop next spring
  • good forage quality depending on the stage at cutting
  • adding peas an option to improve quality
  • crown rust sometimes a potential issue


Double Cropping Fall Rye For Forage


  • harvest in May - does not provide additional forage this fall
  • narrow harvest window - moderate to good forage quality depending on the stage at cutting
  • after harvest follow with corn silage, soybeans, sorghums, etc in late-May, early-June


Summer Seeding Alfalfa


  • full yield potential next year without the usual spring seeding establishment yield loss
  • does not provide extra forage this fall, but increases total yield next year