Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/10/2004
Publication Date: 6/16/2004
Citation: Deak, A., Hall, M.H., Sanderson, M.A. 2004. Forage production and species diversity in pastures. American Forage and Grassland Conference Proceedings. 13. [CD-ROM]. Interpretive Summary: Complex topography and varied soil types create microsites that allow the growth of complex botanical communities in northeastern pastures. Complex mixtures composed of species with marked differences in seasonal growth pattern may provide higher yields than simple mixtures. We compared the forage production and seasonal dry matter distribution of well adapted and commonly sown species combined in simple mixtures (2 and 3 species) and in more complex mixtures (6 and 9 species) in Pennsylvania. The results indicate that choosing the appropriate forage species and targeting mixtures for specific environments is more important than mixture complexity in affecting forage yield and its seasonal distribution. Mixtures composed of highly adapted species to a certain environment would provide the highest yield over time.
Technical Abstract: Mixtures of forage species with differential ability to exploit resources could benefit from highly variable environments. Consequently, complex forage mixtures may improve sustainability of forage production under rotational grazing. This study was undertaken to determine whether forage production was influenced by mixture complexity. Thirteen forage mixtures (combination of 2, 3, 6, and 9 species) were established at the Penn State University Haller Beef Research Farm near State College in August 2001. Pastures were rotationally grazed with cow-calf pairs. Data were collected during 2002 and 2003 growing seasons. Complex mixtures (6 and 9 species) had significantly higher spring, fall, and total dry matter (DM) yield during the two years compared to 2 and 3 species mixtures. However the most critical factor determining higher yield was not number of species, but the particular species that composed each mixture. Red clover appeared as the definitive factor in forage production. Dry matter yield distribution was mainly influenced by weather rather than by mixture complexity. Our data suggest that species selection is more important than mixture complexity in determining forage yield of pastures. Thus, mixtures of highly adapted species to a certain environment would maximize yield over time.