Determining Adaptation of Mono- and Binary Mixtures of Improved Red and Ladino Clovers and Perennial Grasses, Including Perennial Ryegrasses, in the Great Lakes Region

Final Report for LNC02-203

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $94,344.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $96,000.00
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Richard Leep
Richard Leep Consulting
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Project Information

Summary:

This project focused on the evaluation of kura, ladino, red clovers, perennial ryegrass, orchardgrass, tall fescue, and festulolium in mono and binary mixtures using rotational grazing at five locations in Michigan. Yield of cool season grasses grown with kura clover, red clover, or white clover was 4.0 tons/acre. The yield of grasses without clovers with 200-lbs/acre nitrogen was 3.5 tons/acre. The yield of clovers was 3.2 tons/acre. These data show the clear advantage of growing grasses and legumes together. Varieties of diploid and tetraploid perennial ryegrass including “barfort” and “mara” showed excellent winterhardiness while “aries” and “quartet” showed significant winter injury. In 2004-2005, there was a shift of the highest yield of binary mixes or orchardgrass to tall fescue indicating good persistence of this species. The most palatable combinations and the highest dry matter yield of binary mixtures at Lake City were duo festulolium with red clover, calibra perennial ryegrass and red clover, Tekapo orchardgrass with red clover, and barolex tall fescue with red clover. The highest dry matter yields at Kellogg Biological station were hycor tall fescue and jumbo white clover, Spartan orchardgrass and red clover, barolex tall fescue and red clover, and maverick gold perennial ryegrass and starfire red clover. The highest dry matter yields in the Upper Peninsula were hycor tall fescue and jumbo white clover, Spartan orchardgrass and jumbo white clover, barfort perennial ryegrass and alice white clover, and barolex tall fescue and start red clover. Red clover has always been considered a biennial, but after 3 years only 7 of the top 10 yielding mixtures contain red clover. Kura clover performed better at KBS than LC (3.45 v. 1.78 tons/a).

Introduction:

There has been increased interest in clovers, improved perennial grasses and ryegrasses expressed by both farmers and public officials including NRCS and University Extension in recent years. Ryegrasses and ladino clovers have been used extensively in Europe and other parts of the world with great success and are known for their excellent forage quality. Because of the excellent forage quality of these species, dairy farms practicing rotational grazing could stand to benefit from their use in grazing systems. However, there is little or no research in most areas of the Midwest on adaptation of ryegrasses and ladino clovers to make sound recommendations. In addition, there is little information on performance of improved cool-season perennial grasses grown in binary mixtures of improved varieties of red and ladino clovers with perennial grasses in the Great Lakes region. All research being conducted evaluating grass and legume varieties in this region only evaluate monocultures rather than binary mixtures that farmers typically use in their pastures. This project will obtain information on management of these crops in the region, thus, providing farmers with sustainable options for pasture crops to graze where they are found to be adapted.

Project Objectives:
  1. Evaluate pure stands of improved red clover, ladino clover, and perennial grasses including ryegrasses (diploids and tetraploids).

    Evaluate binary mixtures of the above red and ladino clovers with new perennial grasses including ryegrasses (diploids and tetraploids).

    Evaluate the pure stands and binary mixtures by grazing and mechanically harvesting.

    Subject the experiments to extreme different climatic environments by locating three experiments with at least two differences of degrees latitude with distinct climatic differences to determine species response to rainfall, temperature and snowfall.

Research

Materials and methods:

Research on adaptation of mono and binary mixtures of improved perennial grasses including ryegrasses and clovers will be conducted with collaboration between Michigan State University and the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Michigan. In addition, the Michigan Hay and Grazing Council will participate through selection of participating farms for on-farm evaluations. Participating farmers will be expected to present their experiences and results of how the species fit into their grazing systems to their grazing networks and forage councils. Both small plots and companion on-farm plantings with larger acreage up to 5-10 acres in size, will be established in 5 sites in Michigan (Chatham- very cold winter temperatures but good snow cover, sandy loam soils, Lake City- very cold temperatures but less snow cover, sandy loam soils, East Lansing- with milder temperatures and varying snow cover, clay loam soils, W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS), in the SW part of the state with little snow cover, warmer temperatures and a sandy loam soil, SE region- milder temperatures, open winters, loam to clay loam soils, and the heaviest concentration of dairy and livestock in Michigan). Both binary mixtures and single species will be evaluated. Plots to be harvested mechanically at 2-inch height when growth first reaches 12 inches. Harvest thereafter whenever ryegrass is 8 inches and orchardgrass at 10-12 inches. Chatham, Lake City, and KBS, MI sites to be harvested by grazing dairy or beef cattle.

Research results and discussion:
  1. 1) Research trials have been established which compare pure stands of improved red, ladino, and
    kura clover, perennial grasses including perennial ryegrasses which include both diploids and tetraploids. These trials have been rotationally grazed for four years. A significant difference between winter survival and palatability of different species has been documented. Winterhardiness was related more to the geographic region where the perennial grasses were selected from rather than whether the variety was diploid versus tetraploid.

    2) Research trials which evaluate binary mixtures of the above clovers with new perennial
    grasses including ryegrasses (diploids and tetraploids) were established and rotationally grazed for three years. Binary mixtures of clovers and grasses on average resulted in 0.5 tons/acre more dry matter than clover grown in a monoculture or the grass grown in monoculture and fertilized with 200 lbs/acre nitrogen annually in split applications. Red clover stands were excellent three years of grazing but did not persist into the fourth year.

    3) The pure stands and binary mixtures have been evaluated by grazing animals. Plots were
    clipped before and evaluated during and after grazing to determine palatability and dry matter
    yields presented and dry matter rejected by animals. We found that all species when kept in the vegetative stage for grazing were similar in palatability. If orchardgrass began to head out, it was less palatable than other species. Tall fescue was less palatable in the summer months than all other species of grass. All clovers were consumed equally by animals.

    4) Research trials have been established at the MSU Kellogg Biological Station dairy farm, the
    MSU Lake City beef cattle and forage research station, and the Upper Peninsula research station
    farm. In addition, on-farm demonstrations have been established on the John Jelinek and the
    Craig Newland farm in Eastern and Western Michigan respectively. The trials have been located in three different environments which are separated by 2 degrees latitude each and differ significantly in terms of winter temperature and snowfall. One on-farm demonstration is on a grazing cow-calf farm with soils consisting of somewhat poorly drained clay loam while the other is on a grazing dairy farm with loamy sand soils. The different locations provided a significantly different winter environment to evaluate winterhardiness of the grasses. The most significant winter injury occurred at Lake City while the least was at the Upper Peninsula site. Lake City has less snowfall but similar cold temperatures compared to the Upper Peninsula. The highest winter injury in the trials occurred at the Lake City location.

Research conclusions:

Producers were able to see first hand which species/varieties/combinations resulted in the best stands and dry matter yields. This information combined with data coming from the research trials enables producers to choose better performing species/varieties for use on their farms. Prior to this research effort, Michigan was known as the dumping ground of the seed industry as many companies sold poor genetics and older varieties to producers in the state. This research has increased the awareness of producers of the importance of variety selection for better pasture management. In addition, the use of legumes grown with grasses has shown 0.5 tons/acre increase in yield of dry matter compared to the same grasses fertilized annually with 200 lbs/acre nitrogen. This stresses the importance of legumes in the pasture mix to provide free nitrogen and better quality.

Economic Analysis

The use of legumes grown with grasses has shown 0.5 tons/acre increase in yield of dry matter compared to the same grasses fertilized annually with 200 lbs/acre nitrogen. An increase of 0.5 tons per acre of forage dry matter is worth at least $40.00 per acre per year. In addition the replacement value of 200 lbs per acre of nitrogen per year is worth $40 per acre. With an increase in yield and nitrogen fertilizer replacement value, using suitable legume/grass mixtures can result in an increase in profit of $80 per acre per year. This stresses the importance of legumes in the pasture mix to provide free nitrogen and better quality.

Farmer Adoption

Publication materials and outreach information combined with data coming from the research trials enables producers to choose better performing species/varieties for use on their farms. Prior to this research effort, Michigan was known as the dumping ground of the seed industry as many companies sold poor genetics and older varieties to producers in the state. This research has increased the awareness of producers of the importance of variety selection for better pasture management. Information on the results of this project has been made available on the Plant Management Network which is used by farmers, agri-consultants, and extension agents throughout the United States. In addition, the information is distributed electronically to all extension offices and posted on the forage information website maintained by Michigan State University Extension.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

Warnock, D. L., Leep, R. H., Bughrara, S. S., and Min, D.-H. 2005. Cold tolerance evaluation of
improved diploid and tetraploid cultivars of perennial ryegrass. Online. Crop Management doi:10.1094/CM-2005-0221-01-RS. http://www.plantmanagementnetwork.org/pub/cm/research/2005/cold/

Leep, R.H., Dietz, T.S. 2004. Michigan 2003 Alfalfa Variety Trial Results. Online. Crop
Management. http://www.plantmanagementnetwork.org/sub/cm/trials/2003/alfalfa/Dietz.xls

Three pastures walks were held at each on-farm demonstration over the past three years. In addition, a field day was held at each experiment station where results were highlighted. Preliminary results were written up in the Michigan Hay and Grazing Council “Hay and Grazier” newsletter. In addition, results were incorporated into two different grazing schools held in southern and northern Michigan. Results were also presented at the annual meeting of the Michigan Hay and Grazing Council in January, 2004. A presentation was given on the results of this research at the 2005 Michigan Grazing Conference to an audience of 200 people. A poster detailing initial results of this research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Agronomy in November of 2003, and 2004.

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

I would highly recommend evaluation of a sub species of alfalfa called falcata. It shows promise as a persistent legume for pastures in grazing systems. Varieties of this species were not available at the time this proposal was funded but are available on a limited basis now.

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.