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Forage Options Following Wheat

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 inexpensive, good quality haylage or baleage. 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 as timing and rotation. Timely rains after seeding are needed for good growth and yields with all these options.

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.

Summer Seeding Oats & Oat-Pea Mixtures For Extra 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

  • crown rust sometimes a potential issue

  • a mix of 70% oats and 30% peas, such as QS “Fall Buster”, balances improved forage quality with the increased challenges of harvesting peas in wet fall weather.

Figure 1 - Summer seeded oat-pea mixture cut 50 days after planting.

QS “Evolution” Italian Ryegrass

  • high to exceptionally high forage quality (high NDFD, RFQ), palatability and intake suitable for high producing dairy cows

  • a smaller harvest in October followed by a larger harvest next May - can be followed by corn silage, soybeans, sorghums, or it can continue to be harvested every 28 days next year

Figure 2 - May cutting of Evolution Italian ryegrass

Annual Ryegrass & Berseem Clover

  • these annual species are noted for fast establishment and early growth

  • suggested seeding rate is 20 – 22 lbs/acre

  • an 80/20 mix of Eco-Brand annual ryegrass and berseem clover is an inexpensive option

  • annual ryegrass will form a stem and a head the year of seeding, so it will provide more fall growth and yield than Italian ryegrass, but not as high a quality.

Double Cropping Winter Triticale or Fall Rye For Forage

  • usually seeded in September or early October and harvested in May

  • does not provide additional forage this fall

  • narrow harvest window - moderate to excellent forage quality depending on the stage at cutting

  • double crop after harvest by following with sudangrass, sorghum-sudangrass, corn silage, soybeans 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

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