2017 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
2017, including commercial varieties of alfalfa, orchardgrass, tall fescue
annual ryegrass and cover crops in tests planted in 2014 to 2017 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 2017 Crop Conditions
Rainfall was quite variable across the three locations with August and
September below normal for all three locations. Total rainfall for the
growing season was below normal at Wooster but above normal for South
Charleston and North Baltimore. Average monthly temperatures were above
normal for most of the year except for August which was well below normal.
The 2016 seeding at Wooster had the highest yields, averaging 7.92
tons/acre followed closely by the 2015 fall seeding at N. Baltimore at 7.55
tons/acre. Lower yields were harvested from the 2014 seeding at S.
Charleston (3.49 tons/acre). Primarily because first harvest yields were not
included due to high variability in the spring growth from heavy rainfall. A
new spring seeding at S. Charleston was seeded on 25-April. Insecticide
applications were used at all locations for control of potato leafhopper
(PLH) and to control alfalfa weevil at South Charleston and North Baltimore
in the spring.
The orchardgrass trial seeded at South Charleston in 2014 had average
yields of 5.11 tons/acre. Low yields occurred in the second cutting but
recovered for cut three.
The tall fescue trial established at South Charleston in 2014 had an
average yield of 5.22 tons/acre. Low yields occurred in the second cutting
but recovered for cut three. 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 2016. There was no
winter injury. Forage yields in 2016-17 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 seedling vigor.
A cover crop variety trial was planted on September 16, 2016 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.
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.