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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: OPTIMIZING THE BIOLOGY OF THE ANIMAL-PLANT INTERFACE FOR IMPROVED SUSTAINABILITY OF FORAGE-BASED ANIMAL ENTERPRISES

Location: Forage-Animal Production Research

Title: Improving forage quality using seedhead management

Author
item Aiken, Glen

Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: November 10, 2011
Publication Date: January 9, 2012
Citation: Aiken, G.E. 2012. Improving forage quality using seedhead management. American Forage and Grassland Conference Proceedings. CD-ROM.

Interpretive Summary: Seedhead emergence can be controlled in perennial grass pastures to extend vegetative growth and avoid declines in forage quality during reproductive development. Various management tools can be used to control seedhead emergence in pastures. Grazed pastures can be mowed during early seedhead emergence if grazing intensities are light; however, grazing intensities are often high enough for livestock to graze most of the seedheads before they emerge out of the boot. Close mowing or grazing should be combined with rotational grazing to avoid stand deterioration. Mefluidide, a plant growth regulator, demonstrated in early research to prolong vegetative growth of perennial grasses and enhance forage nutritive value and animal performance. However, mefluidide was never registered for use in forages. Chaparral® herbicide is registered for grazed pastures and hay fields and will specifically suppress seedhead emergence of tall fescue [Lolium arundinaceum (Schreb.) Darbysh]. Grazing experiments with Chaparral treated endophyte-infected tall fescue pastures indicated that seedhead suppression of fescue seedheads can increase weight gain efficiency of steers and mitigate the adverse effects that fescue toxicosis, which annually costs the U.S. beef industry approximately 1 billion dollars in lost production. Advantages and disadvantages of these management tools in controlling seedhead emergence in perennial grass pastures will be reviewed.

Technical Abstract: Controlling seedhead emergence in perennial grass pastures can extend vegetative growth and high leaf:stem ratios to avoid declines in forage quality during the reproductive development of grasses. There are various management tools for controlling the emergence of seedheads. Pastures can be mowed to control weeds and seedheads. Grazing intensities can also be high enough to graze seedheads before they emerge out of the boot. However, close mowing or grazing should be combined with rotational grazing to avoid stand deterioration and weed encroachment. Early research with mefluidide demonstrated the plant growth regulator had promise in controlling seedheads and enhancing forage nutritive values and animal performance; however, mefluidide was never registered for use in forages. Chaparral® herbicide is registered for grazed pastures and hay fields and will specifically suppress seedhead emergence of tall fescue [Lolium arundinaceum (Schreb.) Darbysh]. Grazing experiments with Chaparral treated endophyte-infected tall fescue pastures indicated that seedhead suppression can increase steer weight gain and mitigate the effects of fescue toxicosis on steer physiology. This review will discuss advantages and disadvantages of these management tools in controlling seedhead emergence in perennial grass pastures.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014
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