Evaluation of Forage Brassica Establishment and Productivity on Grazing Farms
This project is a pilot study to quantify agronomic characteristics of some forage brassica crops and to educate farmers about the economic potential of these species. The project was a partnership between Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County and 3 northern New York organic farms. Research plots were established at four sites to investigate yield potential of these crops, comparing different varieties and different establishment methods.
Three field meetings were held to educate farmers about the results of this research, and preliminary results were presented at a statewide organic farmer meeting. Additional field research is planned for the 2010 growing season, and fact sheets will be published with final results.
- Quantify yield and forage quality of several varieties across the range of forage brassica types (rape, kale, mustard, turnip, radish, swede, and/or hybrids of these).Compare yield and forage quality of forage brassicas when planted at different times.
Evaluate establishment of brassicas using minimal tillage into pasture compared to conventional tillage.
Compare conventional tillage establishment of brassicas with and without a nurse crop of oats.
Compare no-till establishment of brassicas with and without a vinegar spray for suppression of competing vegetation.
Generate data for use in partial budgeting to evaluate the financial viability of forage brassicas in farming operations.
Establish several instances of brassica trials using different tillage and seeding methods for demonstration to interested farmers.
- Spring Establishment Field Trial set up at Laing Family Farm, Potsdam NY (May 13, 2009) utilizing Graza Radish and Appin Turnip. There was no apparent difference between establishment success in conventional tillage with or without a nurse crop of oats, but the oats provided some additional biomass. Vinegar gave a short term impression of complete vegetation control, but grass quickly grew out of the damage. Establishment was an almost complete failure in the no-till plots, regardless of vinegar applications. Cows broke through the fence a few days before the planned harvest and cleaned up the plots, so no data were collected, but the observational results were clear. The farmer was impressed with the palatability of the brassicas and plans to grow them again.Spring Variety Trial set up at Extension Learning Farm (ELF), Canton, NY (May 15, 2009). Varieties trialed were: Appin Turnip, Graza Radish, Hunter, Pasja, Bonar Rape, Winfred Rape, New York Turnip, Dominion Swede, and Maris Kestrel Kale. Cool weather conditions were ideal for brassica crop growth, and yields were good. Broadcast establishment was found to be less than ideal because it was difficult to get uniform seed distribution at the low seeding rates. Crop yields and quality analyses were collected. Varieties with bulbs had the highest dry matter yields and the most favorable energy to protein ratios for lactating or finishing animals, but may be difficult for some types of animals to graze.
Summer Establishment Field Trial set up at Tuttle Farm, Malone, NY, August 12, 2009, utilizing Appin Turnip and an unnamed variety of oilseed radish. Due to misunderstanding with farmer about availability of land, only the no-till half of trial was established (a nearby but separate plot was planted with tillage for comparison purposes). Vinegar again resulted in almost complete leaf necrosis, but again the grasses recovered, though not as completely as in the spring. Establishment of brassicas was again a nearly complete failure regardless of vinegar application. No yield data were collected due to the obvious absence of brassica plants.
Summer Variety Trial established at Crowe Farm, Heuvelton, NY, August 13, 2009. Seven varieties were trialed: Appin Turnip, Graza Radish, Hunter, Pasja, Bonar Rape, Winfred Rape, New York Turnip. Planting was delayed due to wet weather and wet soil. The brassicas were planted into a prepared soil and interplanted with oats. The plot area was poorly drained and the brassicas grew unevenly. The oat intercrop appeared to be a rational practice in these conditions, as the oats provided good quality forage dry matter more quickly in than did the brassicas in these conditions. Due to late planting and cool conditions, brassica plants were smaller at harvest than would have been desirable. Yield data were obtained.
Summer Variety Trial established at Extension Learning Farm, Canton, NY, August 11, 2009. Varieties tested were: Appin Turnip, Graza Radish, Hunter, Pasja, Bonar Rape, Winfred Rape, and New York Turnip. Planting was delayed due to wet weather. This trial was established with a no-till drill into a glyphosate killed sod. This establishment method seemed reasonably successful overall, though it appeared that it would have worked better had a longer time elapsed between spraying the sod and planting, as there was still significant green leaf matter in the sod at planting. Sheep broke into the plots in early October and ate everything before any data were collected.
Field Workshops were held July 30 and 31 at Extension Learning farm, drawing a total of 15 interested farmers. Spring planted brassica yield data were discussed, and attending farmers got to see what the plants looked like. The Laing Family Farm component of these field days was cancelled due to the fact that there was not much to be seen at the Laing Farm at that time.
A field workshop was held September 18 at the Crowe Farm, with 35 people in attendance (30 farmers/agribusiness, 5 presenters/organizers). Results of spring variety trial at ELF were discussed, attendees got to see plants in the field at the Crowe Farm and samples of older, larger plants from the ELF spring planted trial.
Results of the spring variety trial were presented to roughly 40 people at the statewide NYCO/Organic Dairy and Field Crops PWT meeting on December 10, 2009.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
- This work has increased awareness of brassica crops as a source of digestible energy for grazing animals among farmers in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties.At least three producers have indicated that they planted brassica crops in 2009 and/or intend to plant them in 2010, influenced at least in part by information from this project.
Preliminary data were obtained indicating potential yield and quality of 9 varieties of brassica crops when planted in May. The accompanying graph indicates yield results for seven varieties, plus Oasis chicory which is not strictly a brassica but is often marketed as one. Two other varieties were harvested later and data are not shown on this graph.
Preliminary data were obtained indicating potential yield and quality of seven varieties when planted in August.
We learned that vinegar, by itself, does not have sufficient residual activity in suppression of perennial grass growth to allow no-till planting of brassica crops into sod.
These data will contribute to a fact sheet to be published at the end of the study in late 2010 or early 2011.
Much general experience was obtained which contributes to the local knowledge base, both among farmers and in extension, about successful and unsuccessful ways to grow these crops, including experience with planting times, planting methods, and harvest times. This experience will go into streamlining additional research in 2010.
1572 County Route 15
Heuvelton, NY 13654
Office Phone: 3153442207
2847 US Hwy 11
Malone, NY 12953
Office Phone: 5184837309
Laing Family Farm
772 County Route 35
Potsdam, NY 13676
Office Phone: 3152653179
Grass Based Agriculture Program Coordinator
Adirondack North Country Association
67 Main Street, Suite 201
Saranac Lake, NY 12983
Office Phone: 5188916200
20 Campbell Road
Lisbon, NY 13658-4203
Office Phone: 3153225466
Small Farms Educator
New York Organic Dairy Initiative
60 Central Avenue
Cortland, NY 13045
Office Phone: 6077535213