Unraveling the milk production potential of winter cereals grown as forage double crops in corn or sorghum rotations

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2015: $14,999.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Grant Recipient: Cornell University
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Quirine Ketterings
Cornell University
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Debbie Cherney
Cornell University

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: rye, triticale


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

    Proposal abstract:

    Double cropping has the potential to increase on-farm forage production as well as provide environmental benefits such as rotation diversity, erosion control, end-of-season nutrient uptake, and increased soil organic matter. With NESARE funding, the ideal N application rates and stage of harvest are being evaluated for triticale and cereal rye, two winter cereals well suited to the northeastern United States. Farmers have stated that these winter cereals grown as double crops harvested at the boot stage have resulted in increased milk yield in dairy cattle. Basic quality assessments conducted to date show an increase in crude protein with addition of N and decline in overall quality with delay in harvest but these findings do not explain an increase in milk production when the forage is harvested at the optimal timing. We hypothesize that an increase in starch and starch digestibility is partly responsible for the increased milk potential of winter cereals. Through in vitro analyses of triticale and cereal rye, this study will determine in more detail the starch content and digestibility (and milk production potential) of the winter cereals grown at various N rates (0 to 120 lbs N/acre) and harvested at different stages of growth (from 2-nodes through early heading). Additionally, for a subset of samples quality parameters of dry forages will be compared to that of ensiled forages. A better understanding of the milk producing potential of winter forages will help farmers make more informed decisions about implementing double crop rotations.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objectives of this study are to 1. Compare the nutritive quality via starch and digestibility analysis of two species of winter cereals (triticale and cereal rye) grown at differing N rates and harvested at different growth stages; 2. Determine the quality effects of ensiling the two species of winter cereals; and 3. Evaluate the economic advantages of double cropping from a farm feed nutrient requirement and milk production perspective. This research will contribute to and build on previous projects looking at the benefits of various soil and forage management strategies on yield and environmental stability. These results will answer farmer-generated questions regarding the quality of the forages produced in double cropping systems. If farmers are aware of the nutritional benefits resulting from various crop (harvest, fertilization, ensiling versus dry hay, species selection) management decisions, it is more likely that they will adopt the best management strategies in order to improve their farm’s sustainability while increasing production and profitability.

    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.