2016 Ohio Forage Performance Trials
J.S. McCormick, Research Associate, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science
R.M. Sulc, Extension Forage Agronomist, Dept. of Horticulture and Crop Science
D. J. Barker, Associate Professor, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science
Joe Davlin, Manager, Western Agricultural Research Station, OARDC
Matt Davis, Manager, Northwest Agricultural Research Station, OARDC
Lynn Ault, Manager, Schaffter Farm, Wooster, OARDC
This report is a summary of performance data collected from forage
variety trials in Ohio during 2016, including commercial varieties of
alfalfa, orchardgrass, tall fescue and annual ryegrass in tests planted in
2013 to 2016 across three sites in Ohio: South Charleston, Wooster, and
North Baltimore. For more details on forage species and management, see the
Ohio Agronomy Guide, Ohio State University Extension Bulletin 472, which can
be purchased from Ohio State University Extension's eStore at
Yield data are reported in Tables 2 through 10. Details
of establishment and management of each test are listed in footnotes below
the tables. Least significant differences (LSD) are listed at the bottom of
Tables 3 through 10. Differences between varieties are significant only if
they are equal to or greater than the LSD value. If a given variety out
yields another variety by as much or more than the LSD value, then we are
95% sure that the yield difference is real, with only a 5% probability that
the difference is due to chance alone. For example, if variety X is 0.50
ton/acre higher in yield than variety Y, then this difference is
statistically significant if the LSD is 0.50 or less.
The CV value or coefficient of variation, listed at the bottom of each
table is used as a measure of the precision of the experiment. Lower CV
values will generally relate to lower experimental error in the trial.
Uncontrollable or unmeasured variations in soil fertility, soil drainage,
and other environmental factors contribute to greater experimental error and
higher CV values. However, higher CV values can also occur simply as a
result of the mean yield being low (eg. due to weather conditions), because
the CV is a function of the mean yield. So a higher CV will often occur
where yields are low despite there being no increase in experimental error.
Results reported here should be representative of what
might occur throughout the state but would be most applicable under
environmental and management conditions similar to those of the tests. The
relative yields of all forage legume varieties are affected by crop management
and by environmental factors including soil type, winter conditions, soil
moisture conditions, diseases, and insects.
Alfalfa has the highest combined yield and quality
potential of any adapted perennial forage grown in Ohio. It is grown on
about 310,000 acres. Alfalfa requires well-drained soils with near-neutral
pH (6.5-7.0). Alfalfa trials are initiated each year and data is collected
for at least four years unless the stand becomes so depleted that further
testing is no longer worthwhile; variety performance should be evaluated
over several sites and years.
for Selecting Alfalfa Varieties
To capitalize on alfalfa's potential, select high-yielding varieties with
resistance to problem diseases. Alfalfa variety rankings for a number of
traits described below are reported on the University of Wisconsin forage
these factors when selecting alfalfa varieties for Ohio:
Yield. Yield is critical to profitability
of an alfalfa stand. Select varieties with high yields over several
locations and years. Table 2 shows this comparison in percent of the average
test yield. Varieties that perform equally well across several locations and
years are adapted to a wider range of environmental conditions, which is
important because soils may vary on your farm and weather conditions vary
from year to year.
Another important consideration is how long the alfalfa stand
will last. Study variety performance by age of stand to get an estimate of
longevity of productivity. Some varieties may decline with age more rapidly
than others, which may influence your variety choice depending on how long
you intend to keep the stand. For long-term rotations, choose varieties with
good disease resistance and good performance in the fourth year. If you plan
to harvest alfalfa for three years or less, then high performance during the
first three years should be given priority.
Fall dormancy (FD).
Alfalfa varieties with fall dormancy ratings of 1
through 5 are considered adequately winter hardy for Ohio conditions while
those of 6 or higher are not considered adapted. Varieties with higher fall
dormancy ratings tend to grow at a lower temperature, so they begin growth
earlier in the spring and continue growth later into the fall. The fall
dormancy rating does not correlate well with winter hardiness within the
range of varieties adapted to the Midwest USA.
Variety selection based on yield
performance alone is less satisfactory than selections that also consider
disease resistance characteristics. Resistance to specific disease-causing
pathogens may be the most important attribute in an alfalfa variety.
Pathogens can dramatically reduce yield and persistence of susceptible
varieties. In an evaluation of older versus newer alfalfa varieties we found
that newer varieties yielded more and persisted longer than older varieties,
primarily because of improved resistance to diseases that affected the
trial. For more information on alfalfa diseases and varietal resistance to
specific diseases, go to the following websites:
Alfalfa varieties have been developed for resistance to potato leafhopper
(PLH), which is the most consistently damaging insect pest of alfalfa in
Ohio. The PLH resistant varieties are not resistant to the alfalfa weevil,
and they will need to be protected from that pest like all standard alfalfa
varieties when weevil populations exceed the economic action threshold. For
more information on insect management in alfalfa, see the following website:
Compare to check variety.
For comparisons of varieties across
several trials, always compare varieties to the same check variety planted
within the trial. The variety Vernal is used as a check in all Ohio trials
and is commonly included in trials in other states. Another good way to
compare varieties across trials is to look at their yield in relation to the
trial average reported in Table 2.
Use good management.
No variety can produce well under poor management. Good management considers
all aspects of alfalfa production: seed bed preparation, liming and
fertilization, seeding, pest control, harvest, storage, and post harvest
treatment. Many newer varieties are better adapted to intensive management.
Summary of 2016 Crop Conditions
Rainfall was quite variable across the three locations with May thru July
being consistently below normal for all three locations. Total rainfall for
the growing season was below normal at all three locations. Average monthly
temperatures were above normal for most of the year.
The 2013 seeding at Wooster had the highest yields, averaging 7.21
tons/acre (Table 3) followed closely by the 2014 seeding at S. Charleston at
6.63 tons/acre (Table 4). Lower yields were harvested from the 2015 seeding
at N. Baltimore (5.08 tons/acre, Table 5). A new spring seeding at Wooster
was seeded on 25-April and three harvests were collected. Insecticide
applications were used at all locations for control of potato leafhopper
(PLH) and to control alfalfa weevil at South Charleston.
The orchardgrass trial seeded at South Charleston had an average yield of
5.33 tons/acre. Low rainfall from May and June reduced yields in the second
cutting. Orchardgrass varieties can have significant maturity differences.
The tall fescue trial established at South Charleston in 2014 had an
average yield of 5.56 tons/acre. Low rainfall from May and June reduced
yields in the second cutting. New varieties that are endophyte-free or that
contain a non-toxic endophyte have potential to provide improved animal
performance compared with the old endophyte-infected varieties, especially
during the summer grazing season, and to provide forage for beef cattle and
sheep during autumn and early winter.
In this trial we included KY 31
as a check variety, both endophyte-free (KY 31-) and endophyte-infected (KY
An annual ryegrass trial was planted in September 2015. Winter injury
ratings were low except for one variety. Forage yields in 2015-16 were near
the long-term average at this location. Annual ryegrass is a cool-season
annual bunchgrass that is highly palatable and digestible. It has high
A cover crop variety trial was planted on September 4, 2015 at the South
Charleston location to evaluate different cover crop species and varieties
for stand and ground cover development throughout the fall and for stand,
ground cover, and final biomass production the following spring.
The conditions for this trial are not meant to be representative of cover
crop planting following soybeans or corn in Ohio, because it was planted in
a well-prepared seedbed (conventionally tilled) in early September well
before soybean or corn harvest timing in Ohio.
This trial more closely represents what would be possible with cover
crops planted on land that was in winter wheat and laid fallow after the
July grain harvest, although even in that situation no-till planting of the
cover crops in September would be preferable for conservation purposes.
Therefore, the results from this trial should be interpreted and applied
with caution. The results do demonstrate the relative speed of fall ground
cover establishment of different varieties planted in early September, and
which ones survive the winter and grow in the spring (thus needing to be
terminated before grain crop planting).
Inclusion of entries in Ohio Alfalfa Performance Trials does not constitute an endorsement of a particular entry by The Ohio State University, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, or Ohio State University Extension. Where trade names appear, no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement is implied by The Ohio State University, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, or Ohio State University Extension.
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Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Roger Rennekamp, Director, Ohio State University Extension.