Evaluation of forage soybeans to provide simultaneous benefits: A high-protein dairy forage and a legume cover crop?
This SARE project highlighted the integration of crop and livestock enterprises to improve sustainability. Forage soybeans (Glycine max L. Merr) were evaluated as potential dairy forage in Maine and as a rotational crop in a vegetable production system.
Maine dairy farmers are interested in developing high protein annual forages to include in their dairy ration. An annual high producing forage would provide dairy farmers more flexibility in their crop rotations. Many dairy farmers have diversified by growing vegetable crops themselves or by land sharing with a vegetable producer. Sweet corn is often the crop of choice.
Sweet corn is a nitrogen (N) intensive crop. Producers are interested in reducing soil N inputs to improve the economics and environmental sustainability of sweet corn production. Legumes are often used in rotation as a potential N supply for the following crop. A fertilizer replacement study was conducted to determine the N contributions from a previous soybean crop.
This project demonstrated how vegetable and dairy producers can share cropland for the mutual benefits of improving soil health, decreasing traditional nutrient inputs, providing a high quality dairy forage and increase economic viability.
Objective 1. Evaluate the forage quality of four soybean varieties as an annual forage for dairy production.
Objective 2. Determine the N fertilizer replacement value of a soybean crop prior to sweet corn.
Performance target 1: As a result of two workshop presentations, ten dairy farmers will plant a total of 250 acres of forage soybeans as an annual source of high quality dairy forage.
Performance target 2: As a result of two workshop presentations, 3 vegetable growers will include forage soybeans into their crop rotation.
Field trials with forage soybeans and N fertilizer replacement for sweet corn production were completed in 2005.
Forage soybean yields were not significantly different between varieties. Forage quality data has yet to be evaluated.
There was no significant difference in sweet corn yields across treatments indicating that the previous soybean crop may have provided significant N.
Complete data analysis will be done in the final report.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Information will be shared at field days during 2006 and professional meetings.