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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Rate of yield and quality change in alfalfa

Authors
item Martin, Neal
item BRINK, GEOFFREY
item Hall, Marvin - PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV
item Shewmaker, Glenn - UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO
item Undersander, Dan - UNIV OF WISCONSIN-MADISON

Submitted to: Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: December 11, 2006
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Cutting management investigations have documented the effects of harvest date and frequency on alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) forage yield and quality during the production year; more frequent harvest generally reduces annual yield and increases quality. Information is needed on the change in forage quality relative to yield that occurs within individual harvest periods over the whole growing season. In spring, early summer, late summer, and fall, 'Standfast', 'WL 346', and 'Affinity' alfalfa were harvested at late vegetative stage in Idaho, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Primary growth of each variety was harvested every 5 days thereafter to 20 days of maturity. At all sites, initial yield of the first cut was greatest for the first harvest period. In Idaho, yield increased 120 lb/acre/day during the first harvest period and 180 lb/acre/day during the second and third periods. In contrast, yield increased most rapidly during early harvest periods in Pennsylvania (first; 290 lb/acre/day) and Wisconsin (second; 250 lb/acre/day), but the rate of increase declined during the third (90 to 100 lb/acre/day) and fourth harvest (-20 to 40 lb/acre/day) periods. In Idaho and Pennsylvania, in vitro cell wall digestibility (NDFD) declined more slowly during the first harvest period than during later harvest periods, but in Wisconsin the rate of NDFD decline during the first harvest period was similar to or greater than later harvest periods. Acid detergent fiber (ADF) was not correlated with NDFD at any harvest period in Idaho. Our results suggest that because forage quality changes impact a larger proportion of the annual yield at first harvest, the decline in forage quality that occurs during the spring has a greater impact on feeding and cash value of hay than at any other time of the year.

Last Modified: 9/29/2014
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