Ryegrass Companion Crops for Alfalfa Establishment: II. Forage Quality in the Seeding Year
- R. M. Sulc ,
- K. A. Albrecht and
- M. D. Casler
Ryegrass (Lolium spp.) use in the northceutral USA has been limited by its lack of winterhardiness. But potential exists for its use in this region as a companion crop for alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) establishment. This study was conducted to determine nutritional value of forage from ryegrass-alfalfa mixtures in the seeding year. Five ryegrass cultivars, representing four species, were sown at 215, 430, and 645 seeds per square meter with alfalfa at two locations in Wisconsin in April of 1988, 1989, and 1990. Alfalfa was also established alone and with oat (Avena sativa L. ‘Ensiler’). Forage from mixtures of annual ryrgrass (L. mulfiflorum Lam.) was usually lower in crude protein (CP) concentration and higher in fiber concentration (neutraland acid-detergent fiber) thou forage from intermediate ryrgrass (L. hybridum Hausslm.) or perennial ryegrass (L. perenne L. and Festulolium braunii K. A.) mixtures. A threefold increase in ryegrass seeding rate usually reduced nutritional value of the forage. At the first harvest, forage from all ryegrass-alfalfa mixtures was higher in CP concentration and lower in fiber concentration than the oat-alfalfa forage. At subsequent harvests, the nutritional value of ryegrass-alfalfa forage was inferior to that of forage regrowth in the oat companion crop seeding, except in dry environments when alfalfa predominated in the ryrgrass-alfalfa mixtures. We conclude that ryegrass-alfalfa mixtures in the northcentral USA can provide forage with higher nutritional value than oat companion crop seedings at the first harvest in the establishment year, but not at subsequent harvests, especially when adequate rainfall promotes vigorous ryegrass growth.
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