Submitted to: Forage and Grazinglands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/2/2013
Publication Date: 3/26/2014
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/56792
Citation: Brink, G.E., Digman, M.F., Muck, R.E. 2014. Field drying rate differences among three cool-season grasses. Forage and Grazinglands. DOI: 10.2134/FG-2013-0104-RS.
Interpretive Summary: Conserving grass forage as hay is one of the greatest challenges facing livestock producers due to the drying time needed to reach the appropriate moisture content and the high probability of precipitation during spring when hay is typically produced. Precipitation falling on drying grass forage reduces nutritive value by leaching the highly digestible portions of the plant cell. In this study, we compared the rate at which three commonly grown cool-season grasses dry after being harvested by commercial farm equipment. Despite large differences in yield, and the proportion of leaves and stems making up the grasses, there were few differences in drying rate on the first, second, and third day after cutting. If grasses are harvested at a similar stage of maturity and moisture content, producers should have little concern that drying rate will be affected by the species.
Technical Abstract: Conserving cool-season grasses as silage or hay remains a challenge due to the time required for curing and the unpredictability of weather. We compared the drying rates of three grasses with differing yield potential, morphology, and physical characteristics. Inflorescence-stage meadow fescue, orchardgrass, and reed canarygrass were cut and swathed with field-scale equipment at 1100 hours on three consecutive days of early June in each of two years. Moisture, drying rate, and nutritive value were measured hourly until 1600 hours and over the same time frame during the following two days. Despite differences in leaf:stem ratio and windrow density, there were few differences in drying rate (mean of 0.229, 0.150, and 0.119/h on the first, second, and third days, respectively). In one year, meadow fescue had lower initial moisture content at harvest than the other grasses, potentially allowing earlier processing into silage on the first day of curing. Species will likely not have an impact on drying rate of cool-season grasses harvested at the same relative maturity.