Final Report for FNE13-785

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2013: $11,327.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
John O'Meara
O'Meara Family Farm
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Project Information

Summary:

Winter grains offer an opportunity as a cash crop for farmers in the northeast. This project aims to test a hay crop that will increase dairy farmers’ independence from purchased feeds while developing a rotation ideal for the production of in-demand winter grain. Building on a project done in 2010 to produce buckwheat hay, this project will incorporate buckwheat into oat/pea hay. Although the buckwheat hay produced in 2010 proved extremely useful as part of an organic rotation, the quality of the buckwheat hay was only moderate. This project aims to increase the protein content and make the hay easier to dry by oversowing oat/pea hay with buckwheat. We tested different sowing rates and timings to allow for a stand comprised of roughly half buckwheat and half oat/pea, thereby increasing protein and digestibility while maintaining the weed suppression and soil mellowing characteristics of buckwheat. The land was then sown to winter rye intended for human consumption.

8 Plots were sown to Oats/Field Peas/ Buckwheat.  During the growing season, the growth of the crop was recorded. Rainfall was recorded. Weed pressure was recorded. Measuring the value of the feed concludes the project.
One of the important goals of this project was to establish if buckwheat could successfully be grown as a palatable cattle feed in conjunction with oats and peas. The yields of hay were consistent with other forage crops grown in our locale. Interestingly, our cattle seem to particularly relish the oat/pea/buckwheat hay. Youngstock and dairy cows are thriving particularly well this winter with the addition of the forage from this project. We have noticed that our stock in general are in better form this winter—partially because of the addition of the forage from this project. This project has established that oat/pea/buckwheat is a viable crop for dairy farms in the northeast. 

Because of the inclement weather and a delayed planting time after the hay was made, winter rye was planted instead of winter wheat. Before snowfall, the winter rye showed significantly less weed pressure than the oat/pea/buckwheat. Again, the plots where the buckwheat was planted after an interval—into the established oats/peas—performed the best in suppressing weeds in the following winter rye crop.

Nutrional quality was low or similar to those found in buckwheat hay alone.  The livestock have still throved on the oat/pea/buckwheat hay, regardless.  Yields were between 1.25 to 2 tons of dry hay per acre.

I recommend that dairy farmers and other livestock farmers consider this somewhat non-traditional crop. Particularly in drier grower conditions, oat/pea/buckwheat hay could produce higher quality hay.  Even in our adverse conditions, it succeeded in producing a crop and preparing the ground for winter grain.  It should be planted after the soil is warm– a similar planting time as corn.  the buckwheat should be sown over the oat/peas after 8-12 days.  The hay should be harvested when the buckwheat is in flower– not when seeds have formed.

Introduction:

In general the goal of this project was to determine the feed value, weed control, and growth habits of oat/pea/buckwheat for dairy forage. During the growing season, the growth of the crop was recorded. Rainfall was recorded. Weed pressure was recorded. Measuring the value of the feed concludes the project. In addition, the project aimed to evaluate the ways in which the oat/pea/buckwheat crop prepared the ground for winter grain. The winter grain was also evaluated for weed pressure following the forage crop.

Project Objectives:

One of the important goals of this project was to establish if buckwheat could successfully be grown as a palatable cattle feed in conjunction with oats and peas. Although forage analyses are still pending on the forage grown for this project, the yields of hay were consistent with other forage crops grown in our locale. Interestingly, our cattle seem to particularly relish the oat/pea/buckwheat hay. Youngstock and dairy cows are thriving particularly well this winter with the addition of the forage from this project. We have noticed that our stock in general are in better form this winter—partially because of the addition of the forage from this project. This project has preliminarily established that oat/pea/buckwheat is a viable crop for dairy farms in the northeast. 

In a previous season, we grew straight buckwheat hay. Although this also was a viable feed for dairy cows, it was very difficult to produce as dry hay, particularly in our humid climate. In contrast, the buckwheat/oat/pea hay dried as easily as standard grass/legume hay. It was not as time consuming to make as the straight buckwheat hay and was not as hard on the haymaking equipment.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Thomas Bjorkman

Research

Materials and methods:

In May 2012 we plowed eight acres for this project. The land received 3 acres/ton of manure prior to and the land was prepared with a field cultivator, harrow and disc. The land was be planted to oat/pea hay or oat/pea/ buckwheat hay in the following manner: 

1 acre plots— 

Plot 1: Sown to Oats/Field Peas/ Buckwheat at a rate of 70lbs./ 60lbs./ 40lbs. In this plot, the grain was all sown at the same time.

Plot 2: Sown to oats/ field peas/buckwheat at a rate of 70lbs/ 60lbs/40 lbs. In order to produce strips of oats/peas vs. the buckwheat, the grain drill was sectioned off into five sections—three openings in each section. The grain was sown at the same time.

Plot 3: Sown to oats/ field peas/buckwheat at a rate of 70lbs/ 60lbs/40 lbs. In order to produce strips of oats/peas vs. buckwheat, the grain drill was sectioned off into three sections– five openings in each section. The grain was sown at the same time.

Plot 4: Sown to oats/ field peas at a rate of 70lbs/ 60lbs. Six days later, buckwheat was sown at a rate of 40lbs. per acre.

Plot 5: Sown to oats/ field peas at a rate of 70lbs/ 60lbs. Eight days later, buckwheat was sown at a rate of 40lbs. per acre.

Plot 6: Sown to oats/ field peas at a rate of 70lbs/ 60lbs. Ten days later, buckwheat was sown at a rate of 40lbs. per acre.

Plot 7: Sown to oats/ field peas at a rate of 70lbs/ 60lbs. Twelve days later, buckwheat was sown at a rate of 40lbs. per acre.

Plot 8: Sown to oats/ field peas at a rate of 90lbs/ 80lbs. Control

Research results and discussion:

Yields per acre of hay: 
Plot 1– 1.5 tons dry hay 
Plot 2– 1.25 tons dry hay 
Plot 3– 1.25 tons dry hay 
Plot 4– 1.5 tons dry hay 
Plot 5– 2 tons dry hay 
Plot 6– 2 tons dry hay 
Plot 7– 1 ton dry hay 
Plot 8– 1.75 tons dry hay 

Growth July 15th 

Plot 1– 28” 
Plot 2– 31” 
Plot 3– 30” 
Plot 4– 30” 
Plot 5– 35” 
Plot 6– 33” 
Plot 7– 27” 
Plot 8– 31” 

In general all of the plots were shorter than similar crops grown in more favorable seasons. Plot 7, though not as weedy as some of the other plots, produced a somewhat thin stand with depressed growth. Despite the substandard height, yields were appropriate. This can be accounted for by the relatively high rate of seeding used for this project. 

Rainfall— May 5.8” rain 
              June 6.2” rain 

The rest of the summer was excessively rainy, making weed pressure high and making hay difficult to make. Although the buckwheat/oat/pea hay suffered from a high amount of weed pressure—partially because of adverse weather conditions– it still made a suitable hay crop. 

Weed Pressure OAT/PEA/BUCKWHEAT— scale of 1-10 (ten being weediest)and sample of weeds per square meter 

Plot 1 (10) greater than 200 /square meter 
Plot 2 (9) greater than 200 /square meter 
Plot 3 (9) greater than 200 /square meter 
Plot 4 (9) greater than 200 /square meter 
Plot 5 (5) 100 /square meter 
Plot 6 (5) 100/square meter 
Plot 7 (5) 100/square meter 
Plot 8 (9) greater than 200/ square meter 

The weed pressure was extremely high in all of the plots. This can be partially explained by the cool rainy weather. All of the plots started out well and began the season by competing fairly well with the weeds. By the middle of June, however, growth had slowed in the oat/pea/buckwheat crop because of cool, rainy weather, allowing the weeds to take over. The plots that were sown in strips and the plot where all three forages were sown together faired the worst in competing with weeds. The plots where the buckwheat was planted some days after the oats/peas faired the best. In general, the oat/pea/buckwheat mix was significantly less effective in competing with weeds than a stand of pure buckwheat. Despite the high weed pressure, a decent crop of hay was made in all plots. 

Weed Pressure– Winter Rye 

Because of the inclement weather and a delayed planting time after the hay was made, winter rye was planted instead of winter wheat. Before snowfall, the winter rye showed significantly less weed pressure than the oat/pea/buckwheat. Again, the plots where the buckwheat was planted after an interval—into the established oats/peas—performed the best in suppressing weeds in the following winter rye crop. 

Plot 1 (4) 20 /square meter 
Plot 2 (3) 10/square meter 
Plot 3 (3) 10/square meter 
Plot 4 (3) 10 /square meter 
Plot 5 (1) fewer than 5 /square meter 
Plot 6 (1) fewer than 5 /square meter 
Plot 7 (1) fewer than 5 /square meter 
Plot 8 (3) 10 /square meter

Forage analysis results are pending

Research conclusions:

The main accomplishment of this project was to establish buckwheat as a species that can successfully be incorporated into oat/pea hay.  Although the nutrient content of the hay was of low to moderate quality( please see forage test results),  the oat/pe/buckwheat hay did successfully produce a palatable crop in an extremely difficult growing season.  Perhaps more importantly, this project established oat/pea buckwheat hay as a crop that successfully and economically prepares the ground for a winter grain crop.

In addition, this project demonstrated that the optimum method for sowing buckwheat into oat/pea hay would be to sow the oats/peas, then wait 8-12 day to sow the buckwheat over the already established oat/peas.  Yield results, nutritional quality, and weed suppression were similar for the buckwheat sowed from 8-12 days after the oats/peas.  This project demonstrated that in our conditions, oat/pea/buckwheat sown together at the same time did not produce as well or compete as well as did the method described above.  The three crops sown in strips performed better than when sown together but not as well as the method that incorporated a time delay in planting.

This project also demonstrated that oat/pe/buckwheat hay is far easier to cure and process than straight buckwheat hay.  Given that the forage results for oat/pe/buckwheat hay were quite similar to the forage results for buckwheat hay grown in a different season, this is an important adavantage for dairy farmers to consider.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

An article detailing the methods and results of this project has been submitted to Farming magazine.  It is attached below.

Project Outcomes

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

Oat/pea/buckwheat hay could prove quite useful in an emergency situation where another crop has failed or when field conditions have not allowed a crop to be planted in early spring.  Oat/pea/buckwheat, when sown in the optimum methods outlined by this project, will produce a palatable feed of moderate quality on marginal land in a short time, allowing for a winter grain to be planted later in the summer with reduced weed pressure on the winter grain.  Although the forage results were less than outstanding, the overall advantages of oat/pea/buckwheat hay could significantly contribute to economic sustainability for dairy farmers wishing to also grow winter grains.

Future Recommendations

I recommend that dairy farmers and other livestock farmers consider this somewhat non-traditional crop. Particularly in drier grower conditions, oat/pea/buckwheat hay could produce higher quality hay.  Even in our adverse conditions, it succeeded in producing a crop and preparing the ground for winter grain.  It should be planted after the soil is warm– a similar planting time as corn.  the buckwheat should be sown over the oat/peas after 8-12 days.  The hay should be harvested when the buckwheat is in flower– not when seeds have formed.

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.