Legumes incorporated into established switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) could provide symbiotic N, improve herbage quality, and extend the grazing season. Almost no information exists for legume renovation of switchgrass by frost-seeding. The objective of this study was to identify cool-season legumes that can be established into switchgrass by frostseeding, yet not provide excessive competition to the associated grass. Six legumes [biennial ‘Polara’ white-flowered sweetclover (Melilotus alba Medik. ), biennial ‘Madrid’ yellow-flowered sweetclover (Melilotus officinalis Lam.), ‘Norcen’ birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.), ‘Redland II’ mediumre d clover (Trifolium pratense L.), ‘Apollo Supreme’ alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), and a 50:50 mixture of Redland II red clover and Norcen birdsfoot trefoil] were inoculated with rhizobia and frost-seeded into established ‘Cave-in-Rock’ switchgrass in mid-March of 1991 and 1992. These mixtures were comparedw ith switchgrass fertilized at four N levels (0, 60, 120, and 240 kg ha−1). Successful legume establishment was observed, with an average of 24 and 25% of viable seed producing seedlings by June for 1991 and 1992 seedings, respectively. Mean legume density was 160 and 170 plants m−2 by June of the seeding year (YR 1) and 95 and 55 plants m−2 by June of the second year (YR 2) for 1991 and 1992 seedings, respectively. Legumere novation of switchgrass stands did not affect grass stem density by July YR 1. Mean forage stand composition (based on stem counts) was 87, 67, and 45% legume in June, July, and August YR 2, respectively, for 1991 seedings, and 54, 29, and 23% legume during the same time periods for 1992 seedings. Legumes did not seriously reduce switchgrass stem density, although red clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and their mixture were more competitive than others. Legumes can be successfully introduced into established Cave-in-Rock switchgrass by frost-seeding and they will persist for at least 2 yr with favorable weather.
Joint contribution of Iowa State Univ. and the U.S. Dairy Forage Res. Ctr., USDA-ARS. Journal Paper no. J-16099 of the Iowa Agric. and Home Econ. Exp. Stn., Ames, IA; Project no. 2899. Supported in part by the Leopold Ctr. for Sustainable Agric.