Evaluation of forage soybeans to provide simultaneous benefits: A high-protein dairy forage and a legume cover crop?

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2005: $9,800.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $2,548.00
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Mark Hutchinson
University of Maine Extension

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: general hay and forage crops
  • Vegetables: sweet corn
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, organic matter

    Proposal abstract:

    This project will address two issues: 1. Are forage soybeans a viable option for dairy farms in Maine to produce a high protein annual forage crop? 2. Can nitrogen (N) fertilizer application to sweet corn be reduced following forage soybean? Maine dairy farmers are interested in developing high-protein annual forages to include in their dairy ration. Traditional high-protein forages are often perennial legumes, such as alfalfa, which can be difficult to establish and maintain under Maine’s climatic conditions. Sweet corn production is N intensive (approximately 120 lbs/acre; New England Vegetable Guide 2004). Reduction in soil N inputs would improve the economic and environmental sustainability of sweet corn production. Many dairy farms in Maine have become diversified to include vegetable production. As the demand for vegetable production increases, pressure increases on perennial forage cropland. Inclusion of forage soybeans in the crop rotation has the possible benefits of maintaining high quality forage production and providing a nitrogen source for vegetable production. Separate operations, dairy and vegetable farms, would benefit by sharing and rotating cropland between farms to improve production levels. Both systems could increase the diversity and sustainability of the agriculture community by increasing soil health and reducing environmental impacts. When farms work together, communication and support increase, developing a greater sense of community and understanding.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project will evaluate four soybean varieties to determine potential forage quality for dairy production. The initial trials of three forage soybean varieties and one bean variety were completed in 2004; first-year funding was provided by the growers and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. The project will also implement a sweet corn N fertilizer rate experiment on land that had been cover cropped with soybeans in 2004.

    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.