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Agronomy Journal Abstract -

Harvest Schedule, Persistence, Yield, and Quality Interactions among Four Perennial Grasses1


This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 72 No. 2, p. 378-387
    Received: June 4, 1979

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  1. G. C. Marten and
  2. A. W. Hovin2



Comprehensive analysis of the interactions between harvest schedule and persistence, hay yield, and forage quality is lacking for cool-season perennial grasses. Our objective was to determine whether harvest schedules typical of those producing a range from poor to excellent hay quality (two, three, or four times of cutting/year) under weed-free conditions would differentially influence these properties for orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.), tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.), reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea L), and smooth bromegrass (Bromus inermis Leyss.).

Three harvest schedules were used during the fist 3 production years of this field experiment on Typic Hapludoll soil. In the 4th and 5th years, all plots were harvested thee times to determine whether any adverse responses by the grasses to either more or less frequent harvest could be overcome.

Smooth bromegrass persisted poorest at the four-cutting schedule, tall fescue and orchardgrass persisted poorest at the two-cutting schedule, and reed canarygrass persisted best at all cutting schedules. Smooth bromegrass cut four times recovered substantially after the switch to three-time harvest.

In vitro digestibility and crude protein concentration of reed canarygrass declined most rapidly, while those of orchardgrass or tall fescue declined least rapidly, due to maturation. The grasses did not differ greatly in rate of cell wall concentration increase. We obtained new evidence that crude protein concentration cannot be relied upon for assessment of generalized forage quality.

Reed canarygrass consistently yielded more dry matter than did smooth bromegrass, but otherwise frequent year-to-year yield variations existed among species and cutting schedules.

Our results show the necessity for imposition of several controlled harvest schedules over prolonged periods for accurate measurement of the potential of grasses intended for flexible forage management systems.

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