Intercropping Small Grains and Lupin for Sustainable On-Farm Utilization
Agricultural enterprises depend on innovation to stay competitive and as the old saying goes ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Feed costs are the single largest cost item for dairy operations. Due to constant disease and pest pressure it is not economical to produce alfalfa in a large portion of the southern United States.
Alfalfa haylage and hay together with high quality corn silage are the basis of total mixed dairy rations in traditional dairy states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and New York. We are developing binary mixtures of small grain (wheat, oat) and the large-seeded winter-annual lupin to address the need for a high quality base ration for dairy operations in the southern United States.
This project demonstrated that it is possible to produce 8 – 10 tons of pure lupin per acre silage (65% moisture)compared to 9-13 t/acre for mixed stands and 9-11 t/acre for pure wheat. Harvested at the right time – early bloom, this silage has very high quality.
Relative Feed Value (RFV) is often used as a measure to compare the quality of forage; full bloom alfalfa is assigned a value of 100. The relative feed value of the lupin leaf component is > 230 and lupin stem are approximately 130. The resulting total silage has a RFV exceeding 135 which is in the range found for corn silage made from corn with well developed ears.
Growing a small grain with the lupin rather than lupin in monoculture produces some desirable effects, among them enhanced survival of lupin seedling. Our research also showed that careful seedbed preparation is a must for successful lupin cultivation. Fall-seeded lupin is a very attractive deer browse in wildlife plo ts. Deer tended to consume lupin preferentially over all other forages offered to them. In 1997, we had the first commercial lupin acreage in Alabama for seed production.
(Editor’s note: An eight-page article from this project appeared in the Journal of Production Agriculture. Request a copy from Gwen Roland at (770) 412-4786.)