- Agronomic: oats, hay
- Animal Products: dairy
- Animal Production: feed/forage
- Crop Production: crop rotation, intercropping
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
- Pest Management: smother crops
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Soil Management: soil quality/health
Dairy farms continue to face difficult financial times. High feed costs are driving many dairy farms out of business. In many cases, survivability depends on the ability to produce all or most of the farm’s need on-farm. This is particularly true in the northeast, where feeds often have to be shipped in from other parts of the country. At the same time, grain for human consumption is in greater demand in the northeast, with many farmers and processors striving to rebuild an infrastructure for locally produced small grains. Winter wheat in particular offers 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 wheat. Building on a project done in 2010 (FNE10-698)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 will test 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 will then be sown to winter wheat intended for human consumption.
Outreach will be through a brochure distributed to farm organizations, farmers’ markets, and extension, along with the potential for an article in the region-wide agricultural media.
Project objectives from proposal:
In the spring of 2012—late April or May, depending on the weather– we will plow eight acres to be used for this project. The land will receive 3 acres/ton of manure prior to planting and the soil will be tested through the University of Maine. The land will be prepared with a field cultivator, harrow and disc.
As early as possible, depending upon the weather, the land will 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 will all be sown at the same time.
Plot 2: Sown to oats/ field peas at a rate of 70lbs/ 60lbs. Two days later, buckwheat will be sown at a rate of 40lbs. per acre.
Plot 3: Sown to oats/ field peas at a rate of 70lbs/ 60lbs. Four days later, buckwheat will be sown at a rate of 40lbs. per acre.
Plot 4: Sown to oats/ field peas at a rate of 70lbs/ 60lbs. Six days later, buckwheat will be 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 will be 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 will be sown at a rate of 40lbs. per acre.
Plot 7: Sown to oats/ field peas at a rate of 90lbs/ 80lbs. Control
Plot 8: Sown to oats/ field peas at a rate of 90lbs/ 80lbs. Control
Rainfall will be recorded for all eight plots for one month following sowing.
Germination and height of plants will be recorded for all eight plots for one month following sowing.
During the growing season, each plot will be evaluated for weed pressure. Each plot will be evaluated for weed pressure on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being little or no weed pressure and 10 being extreme weed pressure. In addition, each plot will be evaluated for weed pressure by sectioning off a random 1 meter square area in each plot and estimating the number of weeds per square meter.
The oat/pea or oat/pea/buckwheat hay will be harvested in July, weather permitting. The number of days required for drying will be recorded. Yield per acre will be recorded. The forage will be tested at Dairy One or a similar facility for available nutrients and protein—a standard forage analysis.
In August, each plot will be sowed to winter wheat. Each plot will be valuated for weed pressure in the winter wheat in the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2014 to find out if the different types of hay had significant impact on weed pressure in the crop rotation.
1. Yield per acre of hay—in bales per acre and tons per acre.
2. Quality of hay– standard forage analysis
3. Weed pressure in each plot on a scale of 1-10 and as a sample of weeds per square meter.
4. Weed pressure in each plot of winter wheat following oat/pea hay or oat/pea buckwheat hay using same methods as above.
The results will focus on the quality and amount of the hay produced and the place such hay could hold in a sustainable crop rotation.
Rainfall and germination will also be recorded for the plots of oat/pea and oat/pea/buckwheat to give a background of how the crop behaved/got started. In addition, observations will be recorded on the appearance/tilth of the land prior to planting to winter wheat in order to give an idea of how the hay crop assisted or did not assist in preparing the ground for a small grain crop such as wheat.