- Agronomic: barley, rye, wheat
- Animal Products: dairy
- Animal Production: feed rations, winter forage
- Crop Production: catch crops, cover crops, crop rotation, double cropping, nutrient cycling, tissue analysis
- Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
- Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, budgets/cost and returns
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems
In response to the increased frequency of extreme weather events, such as the drought in 2012 and exceptionally wet conditions in 2013, a growing number of farmers in the Northeast have become interested in harvesting winter cereal cover crops in the spring and then double cropping with corn silage to increase per acre crop yields and reduce feed imports. In the past three years of on-farm yield measurements, winter cereals harvested in May produced an average of 2 tons of dry matter per acre annually when properly managed. However, many factors, such as adverse weather, can prevent timely harvest, and recent discussions with farmers have revealed a strong interest in understanding what tradeoffs occur when winter cereals are harvested at different growth stages. In addition to sites at two research stations, we are collaborating with extension educators and a crop consultant to collect forage samples at five winter cereal growth stages on three NY farms. These data will allow us to quantify the effects of harvest timing on forage quality and yield for winter cereals grown as forage double crops. Results will be published in an agronomy fact sheet and a Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) article, and they will be presented at CCE meetings, grower conferences, and a field day. By providing farmers with the information necessary to optimize forage harvest timing, this project is expected to increase farm profitability, improve crop and livestock management, and enhance environmental sustainability through benefits to soil health and reduced feed imports.
Project objectives from proposal:
1) Determine the forage quality and yield of four species of winter cereal cover crops (triticale, cereal rye, wheat, and barley) when harvested for forage at five different growth stages in the spring, from Feekes 7 through 10.5 (two nodes through heading).
2) Quantify tradeoffs between forage quality and yield across winter cereal species and cultivars and determine the timing and duration of optimal harvest windows prior to double-cropped corn for silage.
3) Disseminate results and information about the potential of double cropping with winter cereal cover crops prior to corn silage to enhance farm productivity, reduce feed imports, increase profitability, and improve soil and water conservation.