- Agronomic: grass (misc. annual), hay
- Crop Production: cropping systems, other, varieties and cultivars
In the Northeast, low availability of perennial cool-season forages during June through August stresses farm budgets and can lead to overgrazing which harms the long-term productivity and health of agricultural lands. Summer forage shortfalls will likely worsen as the climate changes and becomes hotter and dryer. Crabgrass (Digitaria ciliaris) is a warm-season annual forage that is productive in the southern United States but unknown in the Northeast. However, the ecology of its weedy relatives and recent studies from the Midwest suggest that it would be a highly useful alternative summer forage in northeastern dairy and livestock agriculture.
To fully investigate the innovative use of crabgrass in the Northeast, three experiments will be performed at the University of Massachusetts:
1) Crabgrass will be planted at four times (mid-May, early June, mid-June, and late June) and three seeding rates (3, 6, and 9 pounds per acre). Weekly sampling will explore the relationship between growth stages and forage yield and quality.
2) Improved crabgrass varieties will be evaluated for yield and quality with three nitrogen fertilizer treatments (50, 100-single application, and 100-split application pounds/acre). This will show the best crabgrass varieties suited to the Northeast and nitrogen management for single and multi-cut forage systems.
3) Crabgrass, pearl millet, and sudangrass will be grown and evaluated for their forage quality as hay and haylage.
Economic analysis will be performed to assess the costs and benefits of crabgrass forage. The results of this project will be used to make recommendations for regional crabgrass production.
Project objectives from proposal:
1) Explore basic information on optimal sowing date, seeding rate, and time of harvest of Quick-N-Big crabgrass. Measure weekly growth, yield, and forage quality of crabgrass between 4 and 10 weeks after planting for crabgrass sown at four planting dates (mid-May to late June) and three seeding rates (3, 6, and 9 pounds/acre). Investigate the relationship between crabgrass growth stage, seasonal progression, and forage quality and yield. (Experiment 1)
2) Evaluate yield and quality performance of several crabgrass varieties grown under different nitrogen management treatments and quantify their regrowth after first-cut harvest. (Experiment 2)
3) Determine the quality of crabgrass haylage and fermentation profile compared to the quality of haylage made from pearl millet and sudangrass, using mini-silos. (Experiment 3)
4) Perform an economic analysis of crabgrass forage production. For this purpose, crabgrass forage will be compared to purchased hay and other common summer annual forages, including pearl millet and sudangrass. An enterprise budget for these three crops as well as locally purchased hay and haylage will be conducted. Data from all three experiments will be used in this analysis.
5) Establish research-based recommendations for the holistic production of southern crabgrass in the Northeast.