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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ENHANCED MIDWESTERN CROPPING SYSTEMS FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY Title: Living Mulch Nutritive Value in a Corn-Soybean-Forage Rotation

Authors
item Singer, Jeremy
item Moore, K.J. -

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 22, 2009
Publication Date: December 11, 2009
Citation: Singer, J.W., Moore, K. 2009. Living Mulch Nutritive Value in a Corn-Soybean-Forage Rotation. Agronomy Journal. 102(1):282-288.

Interpretive Summary: Living mulches are perennial cover crops that can function to supply forage in multifunctional cropping systems. Information quantifying nutritive value of forage plants in living mulch cropping systems is limited. The objective of this research was to quantify the nutritive value of forages from different plant functional groups managed as living mulches in two of three years and as a forage crop in the third year of this three-year corn-soybean-forage rotation. Alfalfa, kura clover, and birdsfoot trefoil were evaluated in sole seedings and binary mixtures, reed canarygrass and orchardgrass were included in three-way mixtures, and a non-dormant alfalfa was seeded each spring. Average crude protein and neutral detergent fiber during 2005, 2006, and 2007 was 19.0% and 44.9% for kura+alfalfa+reed canarygrass compared with 18.2% and 45.8% averaged across birdsfoot trefoil+alfalfa+orchardgrass and kura+alfalfa+orchardgrass mixtures, 19.5% and 39.7% averaged across alfalfa, kura+alfalfa, and alfalfa+birdsfoot trefoil, and 19.3% and 40.4% for the non-dormant alfalfa treatment. Weed densities were high in 2005, 2006, and 2007 among living mulch treatments compared with the non-dormant alfalfa. Despite high weed densities in the living mulch treatments no treatment effect was detected for nutritive value. All of these living mulch treatments produced high nutritive value forage and could be considered by farmers in multifunctional cropping sytems.

Technical Abstract: Living mulches can function to supply forage in multifunctional cropping systems. Information quantifying nutritive value of forage plants in living mulch cropping systems is limited. The objective of this research was to quantify the nutritive value of forages from different plant functional groups managed as living mulches in two of three years and as a forage crop in the third year of this three-year corn (Zea mays L.)-soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.]-forage rotation. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.)(A), kura clover (Trifolium ambiguum Bieb.)(K), and birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.)(BT) were evaluated in sole seedings and binary mixtures, reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea L.)(RCG) and orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.)(OG) were included in three-way mixtures, and a non-dormant alfalfa (NDA) was seeded each spring. Average crude protein (CP) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) during 2005, 2006, and 2007 was 190 and 449 g kg-1 for K+A+RCG compared with 182 and 458 g kg-1 averaged across BT+A+OG and K+A+OG mixtures, 195 and 397 g kg-1 averaged across A, K+A, and A+BT, and 193 and 404 g kg-1 for the NDA treatment. Weed densities averaged 104, 178, and 116 weeds m-2 in 2005, 2006, and 2007 among living mulch treatments compared with 14, 84, and 67 weeds m-2 in the NDA. Despite high weed densities in the living mulch treatments no treatment effect was detected for nutritive value. All of these living mulch treatments produced high nutritive value forage.

Last Modified: 7/23/2014
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