Using a rising plate meter in multi-species pastures
The rising plate meter has been used for several decades to estimate forage yields in pastures containing only one or two forage species. However, pastures with multiple forage species have challenged yield estimations due to differences in growth habit and growth rate of the forages. This can lead to gross miscalculations in forage budgeting.
In an article recently published in Agricultural & Environmental Letters, researchers found that when estimating forage yield of pastures containing diverse forage species, use of quadratic or cubic relationships did not increase the robustness of the calibration equations. Setting the equation so 0 kg of biomass equals 0 plate meter height resulted in a 43–89% increase in the fitness of the calibration equations.
The rising plate meter is an important tool for producers to make forage management decisions; however, frequent and accurate calibration is critical when forage conditions change (e.g., forage structure, maturity, and species). Additional research is necessary to further increase the accuracy of the rising plate meter for on-farm use in pastures containing multiple forage species, which is typical of pastures in many temperate regions of the United States.