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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #361066

Research Project: Multifunctional Farms and Landscapes to Enhance Ecosystem Services (Bridge Project)

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Forage brassicas: extending the grazing season with an alternative forage

item Billman, Eric
item DILLARD, SANDRA - University Of Auburn
item Soder, Kathy

Submitted to: Extension Fact Sheets
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/19/2019
Publication Date: 3/25/2019
Citation: Billman, E.D., Dillard, S.L., Soder, K.J. 2019. Forage brassicas: extending the grazing season with an alternative forage[abstract]. Extension Fact Sheets. p. 1.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Fluctuations in perennial cool-season forage growth patterns can results in the inability to meet nutrient needs of grazing livestock during certain seasons of the year. This necessitates either a.) large stores of hay or baleage to last upwards of four to five months, or b.) stockpiling of forage into winter months, in which case quality and nutritive value can be low. Forage brassicas offer a potential alternative to these issues. They accumulate biomass rapidly, have high leave to stem ratios, will continue to grow until temperatures remain below freezing for several days, and also maintain their quality for far longer than perennial grasses and legumes. The objective of this project was to evaluate performance of different annual forage brassica species, compared to traditional winter annual options, in northeastern forage production systems. Three brassica species, ‘Barisca’ rapeseed (RAP; Brassica napus L.), ‘Inspiration’ canola (CAN; B. napus L.), and ‘Appin’ turnip (TUR; B. rapa L.) were compared against ‘KB Supreme’ annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.) for dry matter yield and forage quality over two autumn production seasons. Plots were 18 x 30 ft. and were seeded with a no-till drill (Wintersteiger AG, Austria) in August of 2015 and 2016 with all brassicas seeded at 5 lbs ac-1, and annual ryegrass at 20 lbs ac-1. Results indicated that harvest date had no significant impact on yield, and that mean yield of all brassicas (653-767 lbs ac-1) were significantly greater (P < 0.001) than annual ryegrass (307 lbs ac-1) over the two-year test period. This indicates that brassicas potentially haver greater forage yield under environmental stress conditions that hinder annual ryegrass growth, such as warm temperatures in late summer, or colder temperatures in late fall. This also indicates that regrowth potential of brassicas is far greater than annual ryegrass. Fiber fractions affecting intake (neutral detergen fiber, NDF) were also significantly less (P < 0.001) in brassica species (15-20%) than in annual ryegrass (35%), potentially allowing for increased dry matter intake when consuming diets containing brassicas. These results indicate that forage brassicas can serve as viable alternative forages for producers who desire high yielding, rapidly growing crops that meet high animal productivity standards.