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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #398333

Research Project: Sustainable Intensification of Integrated Crop-Pasture-Livestock Systems in Northeastern Landscapes

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Managing interspecies competition to improve spring pasture maturity, nutritive value, and biomasss

item Mercier, Kelly
item Billman, Eric
item Soder, Kathy
item Jaramillo, David
item Goslee, Sarah
item Adler, Paul

Submitted to: Crop Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/21/2022
Publication Date: 3/17/2023
Citation: Mercier, K.M., Billman, E.D., Soder, K.J., Jaramillo, D.M., Goslee, S.C., Adler, P.R. 2023. Managing interspecies competition to improve spring pasture maturity, nutritive value, and biomass. Crop Science. 63(2):974–986.

Interpretive Summary: Harvesting forages at the proper maturity stage is essential in maintaining desirable nutrition for cattle. However, wet field conditions common during the spring can delay harvest or grazing of forages, leading to advanced maturity and reduced nutritional value. This study used chicory, a tall-growing, high-quality forage, to compete with orchardgrass (planted with or without white clover) to delay orchardgrass maturity and improve pasture nutrition during theh spring. While chicory did delay orchardgrass maturity, most chicory died out over the first winter. Despite this loss of chicory, seed costs were redu ed, and yield and nutrition of the pasture were increased with the addition of chicory to orchardgrass compared to planting orchardgrass alone or in a mixture with white clover. Further research is needed to evaluate competition among pasture foraages to improve grazing systems.

Technical Abstract: In the much of the United States, wet springs often cause poor field conditions leading to harvest and/or grazing delays and subsequent reductions in forage nutritive value. The objective of this study was to compare monocultures and combinations of orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.), chicory (Cichorium intybus L.), and white clover (Trifolium repens L.) to determine the effects of interspecies competition during two consecutive springs on plant maturity, nutritive characteristics, and forage availability during the spring with the hypothesis that shade from chicory would delay orchardgrass maturity resulting in greater nutritive value and an extended harvest/grazing window for high-quality forage. Mixtures containing chicory exhibited delayed orchardgrass maturity in the first spring as compared to orchardgrass monocultures and orchardgrass-white clover mixtures but only resulted in increased nutritive value-adjusted biomass (nutritive value x biomass) in trinary mixtures. Chicory content declined drastically in the second year likely due to drought and winterkill, resulting in a negligible effect on orchardgrass. A trinary mixture of orchardgrass, white clover, and chicory in equal seed proportions provided the greatest increase to overall nutritive value-adjusted biomass and decreased the cost per unit of nutrient over two years while also delaying orchardgrass maturation by at least 9 days in the first year. However, investigating management practices to increase chicory longevity or evaluating alternative long-lived high-energy forages in an orchardgrass-white clover stand may provide a more flexible pasture management system.