Utilizing Warm-Season Grasses in Forage Production in a Changing Climate

Final Report for FNC07-664

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2007: $5,700.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


500 acres total, 496.5 acres actually. Rents ground. Strictly grows hay, mostly for horses. That’s what it started out to be. Hayseed came out of Canada. 30 % to 40 % alfalfa and orchard grass, meadow brome, and express timothy (a finer stemmed and heavier grained timothy with smaller head than regular timothy). 4 kinds of alfalfa that are very winter hardy.

Project Objectives:

I would like to try something like this again but not the warm-season grasses, they just won’t produce here. They would probably do well in Nebraska or the most southern Michigan area.


Materials and methods:

Went through preparation and worked up a 40 with the aerator and harrow like before and got a little germination but was very disappointed. Got maybe 40% germination. Planted bluestem and switch grass, gamagrass and Indian grass. Can’t multiple cut them. Can cut maybe once a year, maybe twice. Then they just died out. I babied the one I plowed. Cut it the first time and off of 40 acres didn’t get 56 bales. Pretty poor production. Weeds set in. Every time I cut it, I ended up with less hay. I have seen plots where it looks pretty but isn’t cut. This 40 didn’t have any alfalfa.

Rod Cargo
Will Brandly
Eddie Corgiel
Some kids that marked fields for me.

Research results and discussion:

The warm-season grasses didn’t turn out and did not grow the way I wanted. They looked as if they were burnt up. It did however make the ground very healthy for growing alfalfa and orchard grass. I was testing to see if the warm grasses could grow. The average for hay cutting is 2 ½ tons for everyone in his area. He is constantly cutting 4 ½ tons of hay. His fifth cutting was at Thanksgiving.

I can’t give any good recommendation on that. Fields that I aerated and harrowed and spin spread didn’t see any good in that. But got more production from what I already had.

Talked to several guys about it. Don’t seem to grow that well – kind of borderline. So put it back into alfalfa and orchard grass.

Lots of farmers with poor fields. Harrow a bit and add turkey manure could bring production up.

Field in Canada was where they were trying this process of aeration. Very big into aeration in Canada and have a lot of chicken and turkey manure. Hogs too but not much info on that.

At this point we’ll just call it even but I’m actually ahead because I learned a lot. I spent a lot more than the grants were worth but what I gained in knowledge, and I still have the hay and the fields are still producing and people are still so intrigued with it.

The warm-season grasses will not do well in this region do to the cold climate and the moisture.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Outreach: Did field day on my own on first project. Roasted hog quarters and had fellows come over – had 76 folks there. Had hayrack on tractor and gave people rides around to the different areas. First one the school donated a mobile loud speaker unit. Had good turnout the first time but not second time (but was haying time and Extension and machinery men were gone). After first one, sold some equipment.

I had another field day. I served lunch, sandwiches, drinks and cookies. There were 37 in attendance. There was equipment there; New Holland showing people the machine and bailing. The seed people from Canada were there and gave a talk about the different seeds. I wish the people from the University were there to talk with the people in attendance.

I want to be involved in another project but not warm-season grass, at least not in this region.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.