In 2016, the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program evaluated yield and quality of six summer annual forage species and five mixtures at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, VT. In the Northeast, cool season grasses dominate the pastures and hay meadows farmers rely on throughout the season. With the onset of hot summer weather, these grasses enter dormancy and slow in production leading to what is generally referred to as the “summer slump”. In addition to this loss in production, organic producers must provide animals with 30% of their dry matter intake (DMI) from pasture over at least 120 days of the year. These constraints, in combination with variable weather, can make it very difficult to produce adequate forage from these cool season perennial grasses alone to meet the farmer’s needs. Summer annual species thrive in hot weather and can be grazed to help reach the pasture requirement or can be used as stored feed to supplement other sources. Recently, there has been a growing interest in utilizing multiple species to maximize forage yield and quality. In 2015, we trialed three- and five-way mixtures of various summer annual grass, legume, and forb species. We found it very difficult to establish a well-balanced mixture as the grasses tended to outcompete the other species. In 2016, we simplified the project to examine seeding rates of summer annual legumes and grasses to better understand how to establish mixtures of these species and be able to benefit from both species. While the information presented can begin to describe the yield and quality performance of these forage mixtures in this region, it is important to note that the data represent results from only one season and one location.


Vermont, University of Vermont

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