Establishment and Evaluation of Deep-Rooted Perennial Cup Plant and Gamagrass as a Corn Silage Alternative in Dairy Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2023: $21,898.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2026
Grant Recipient: Cleveland Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Scott Cleveland
Cleveland Farm


  • Agronomic: corn
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: cropping systems
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research

    Proposal summary:

    Dairy farmers who rely on annual cropping systems as a significant part of their forage harvest are at much higher economic risk due to dairy economics, climate variation, and water quality regulations. The trade-off is that annual crops such as corn silage are high yielding, resulting in more tonnage per acre. While extensive work has been done on cover cropping trials and short season corn variety trials to address soil health in annual cropping systems, this project explores the feasibility of a perennial alternative. The question we seek to answer is can farmers transition a portion of their corn silage production to a perennial mix of cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum), Eastern gamagrass, birdsfoot trefoil, plantain, and alsike clover and obtain similar yields and quality without a negative impact on milk production. An established learning cohort of four conventional dairy farmers, who have been working together for two years, will develop a strategy and planting protocol for establishing this alternative crop on each of our farms, each of us with different soil types and microclimates. We will monitor and document plant growth, determine optimum harvest timing, and obtain yield and forage quality information in comparison with harvested corn silage crops. Because of the time needed to fully establish perennial stands, this will be a three-year project. We will highlight our work with two articles, a fact sheet of best practices and a field day on one of the cohort farms.   

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to:

    1. Establish diverse perennial plantings of cup plant, Eastern gamagrass and plantain/birdsfoot trefoil and alsike clover as a perennial alternative to  corn silage 
    2. Develop appropriate site-specific timelines and protocols for establishing the perennial crop
    3. Monitor plant growth/maturity of the standing forage to determine optimum harvest timing and protocols
    4. Obtain yield information for the harvested perennial crop and compare with harvested corn silage crops
    5. Test the ensiled harvested crop to determine crude protein, digestibility, energy levels and mineral levels of the alternative crop in comparison to harvested corn silage crops
    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.