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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Dairy Forage Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #218262

Title: Yield, Nutritive Value and Silage Fermentation of Kura Clover-Reed Canarygrass and Lucerne Herbages in Northern USA.

item Muck, Richard

Submitted to: Grass and Forage Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/5/2009
Publication Date: 12/1/2009
Citation: Contreras-Govea, F.E., Muck, R.E., Albrecht, K.A. 2009. Yield, Nutritive Value and Silage Fermentation of Kura Clover-Reed Canarygrass and Lucerne Herbages in Northern USA. Grass and Forage Science. 64(4):374-383.

Interpretive Summary: Alfalfa is one of the best legume forages for yield and producing milk by dairy cattle. However, alfalfa is not productive in wet soils and is subject to winterkill in cold climates. One potential alternative for these more adverse conditions is a mixture of kura clover and reed canarygrass. We compared this mixture to alfalfa in Southern Wisconsin in regard to yield, preservation by ensiling and nutritive value to the cow. The yield of the mixture was similar or greater than alfalfa on a given cutting date. The mixture ensiled as well as alfalfa and had an estimated digestibility to the cow that was similar or slightly lower than alfalfa. Consequently, the kura clover-reed canarygrass mixture appears to be a good alternative to alfalfa where alfalfa is riskier to grow due to wet soils and/or winterkill problems. These results will be of interest to dairy farmers, their consultants, and extension agents in the Northern U.S.

Technical Abstract: The combination of excellent winter hardiness, persistence, and nutritive value of both kura clover (Trifolium ambiguum M. Bieb.) and reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea L.) suggest that intercropping these two crops could represent a good replacement for alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) silage where winter weather conditions compromise forage and silage production in the northern USA. The objective of this experiment was to compare yield and silage nutritive value characteristics of kura clover-reed canarygrass (KC-RCG) mixtures to that of alfalfa in late spring and early summer. This study was conducted near Arlington, WI over two growth cycles in spring and early summer 2004. First and second growth of alfalfa and KC-RCG mixture were harvested four times at one-week intervals in four replicates, ensiled, and allowed to ferment for a minimum of 30 days. Dry matter yield was 27% greater in the KC-RCG mixture than alfalfa in the first growth cycle; no differences in yield between crops were observed in the growth cycle 2. Silage pH was lower in alfalfa than the KC-RCG mixture in growth cycle 1, and the opposite occurred in growth cycle 2. Lactate concentration was lower in the KC-RCG mixture than alfalfa in both growth cycles but overall fermentation of the KC-RCG mixture was excellent. The KC-RCG mixture had a similar in vitro true digestibility as alfalfa when harvested at the same time and when the KC-RCG mixture has a neutral detergent fiber concentration lower than 500 g/kg DM. These results suggest that a kura clover-reed canarygrass mixture is a viable alternative to alfalfa where alfalfa production is limited by soil conditions and frequent winterkill.