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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 #330276

Research Project: Forage Characteristics that Alter Feed Utilization, Manure Characteristics and Environmental Impacts of Dairy Production

Location: Dairy Forage Research

Title: Alfalfa interseeded into silage corn can serve as a cover crop and subsequent forage crop

item OSTERHOLTZ, WILLIAM - University Of Wisconsin
item Grabber, John
item RENZ, MARK - University Of Wisconsin

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/29/2016
Publication Date: 7/31/2016
Citation: Osterholtz, W., Grabber, J.H., Renz, M.J. 2016. Alfalfa interseeded into silage corn can serve as a cover crop and subsequent forage crop [abstract]. ASA-CSSA-SSSA. Paper No. 102472.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and corn (Zea mays) silage are commonly grown in rotation in dairy forage production systems throughout the northern regions of the USA. Alfalfa interseeded into silage corn could potentially serve two purposes: as a cover crop during the silage corn production year, and as a forage crop during subsequent growing seasons. A major obstacle to implementing this system has been that competition between the co-planted corn and alfalfa often leads to stand failure of the interseeded alfalfa. However, recent studies from Wisconsin demonstrated that foliar application of the growth regulator prohexadione-calcium to select alfalfa varieties can overcome this obstacle and successfully establish alfalfa interseeded with silage corn. In order to quantify the potential environmental and agronomic benefits of the interseeded system we compared the corn-interseeded alfalfa system with a conventional cropping system of silage corn followed by spring seeded alfalfa. Soil erosion in the fall and following spring were reduced by 80% in the interseeded system, while runoff of water and phosphorous in the fall and following spring were reduced by 60%. Additionally, total forage yield of the interseeded system exceeded that of the conventional system. While additional work is needed to refine the interseeded alfalfa system, the observed improvements in crop yields and in soil and water conservation could provide powerful incentives for implementing this production system on farms in the northern USA.