2008 Ohio Forage Performance Trials
Extension Forage Agronomist, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science
Research Associate, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science
D. J. Barker
Associate Professor, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science
K. A. Diedrick
Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources
Clarence Renk Manager, Western
Agricultural Research Station, OARDC
Assistant Manager, Western Agricultural Research Station, OARDC
Manager, Jackson Agricultural Research Station, OARDC
Agriculture Technician, Jackson Agricultural Research Station, OARDC
Manager, Schaffter Farm, Wooster, OARDC
Manager, Schaffter Farm, Wooster, OARDC
This report is
a summary of performance data collected from forage variety trials in
during 2008, including commercial varieties of alfalfa, red clover, orchardgrass,
tall fescue, perennial and annual ryegrass, teff, sorghum x sudangrass,
sudangrass, and forage sorghum in tests planted in 2005 to 2008 across three
sites in Ohio: South
Charleston, Wooster, and Jackson. For more details
on forage species and management, see the Ohio Agronomy Guide,
Ohio State University Extension
Bulletin 472, (available online at
Interpreting Yield Data in this Report
Yield data are reported in
Tables 2 through 16. 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 14. 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.
If the LSD is 0.51 or greater, then we are less confident that variety X
really is higher yielding than variety Y under the conditions of the test.
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 unmeasurable variations in soil fertility, soil drainage, and
other environmental factors contribute to greater experimental error and higher
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 the state's largest single hay crop, being grown on about one-half
of the total hay acres. Alfalfa
requires well-drained soils with near-neutral pH (6.5-7.0) for greatest
production and persistence. 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
Guidelines for Selecting Alfalfa Varieties
To capitalize on alfalfa's
potential, select high-yielding varieties with resistance to problem diseases.
Consider these factors when selecting alfalfa varieties for Ohio:
Yield is the major factor in determining profitability of an alfalfa
stand. Select varieties with high yields over several locations and years.
Table 3 shows this comparison in percent of the average yield.
Varieties that perform equally well across several locations and years
are probably adapted to a wider range of environmental conditions. Stable yield
performance across several environments is important because soils may vary on
your farm and weather conditions vary from year to year.
Conditions on most farms are such that several varieties may perform
Another important consideration beyond yield is
how long the stand will last. Study variety performance by age of stand to get
an estimate of longevity of stand productivity.
Some varieties may decline with age more rapidly than others. This may
influence your choice of variety depending on how long you intend to keep the
stand in production. For
long-term rotations, choose varieties with good disease resistance and good
performance in the fourth year of production. If you plan to harvest alfalfa for
three years or less, then high performance during early years of the stand
should be given major consideration.
Fall dormancy (FD).
Alfalfa varieties with fall dormancy ratings
of 1 through 5 are considered adequately winter hardy for
conditions while those of 6 or higher are not considered adapted.
Varieties with higher fall dormancy ratings tend to grow at a lower
temperature. Thus they begin to
grow earlier in the spring and later into the fall, extending the growing
season. 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 a recent evaluation of older versus newer alfalfa varieties we
found that varieties released in the mid-1990’s yielded more (0.25 ton per acre
more each year) 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
varieties have been developed for resistance to potato leafhopper (PLH), which
is the most consistently damaging insect pest of alfalfa in
Ohio. This report includes several trials where yield
tolerance to PLH damage is being evaluated. Please note that 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 planted within the trial. The variety Vernal is used
as a check in all Ohio trials.
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 2008 Crop Conditions
The growing season began with
above normal temperatures in April followed by below normal temperatures in May.
Temperatures were below normal all months except April and June at all
locations, and in September at South Charleston
Total rainfall for the season was normal at all locations:
(-4.26 inches), South Charleston (-1.88 inches)
(-1.31 inches). June was the only month with rainfall well above normal at all
locations. Surprisingly alfalfa yields were excellent but grass yields were
somewhat lower than average in our trials.
established in 2007 at Wooster had the highest yields, averaging 8.3
tons/acre. Good yields were also obtained in the Wooster
trial seeded in 2006 (7.6 tons/acre) and at South Charleston in 2005 (7.1 tons/acre).
Alfalfa weevil populations were low at all sites and no insecticide was required
for their control. Insecticide
applications were used at all locations for control of potato leafhopper (PLH)
in the standard yield trials.
was applied to control potato leafhopper in the alfalfa yield trial for potato
leafhopper resistance conducted at
OH and seeded this year.
High leafhopper populations resulted in significant yield differences
among varieties. Leafhopper resistant varieties are not resistant to alfalfa
weevil, and will need to be treated with insecticides if weevil populations
exceed action thresholds.
of red clover varieties were slightly less than 5 tons/acre in 2008, except for
Red Gold (due to poor establishment) and “common” seed (due to stand loss from
diseases). Newer varieties of red clover yield more and persist longer than
“common” red clover.
Yield in 2008
was lower due to the reduced rainfall. Only three harvests were taken in 2008,
whereas we typically take four harvests.
Orchardgrass varieties differed greatly in yield over the season, and all
varieties went dormant for part of the summer due to dry weather.
The tall fescue
trial of endophyte-free varieties established at
in 2004 had low yields in 2008, although they were greater than in 2007. Only
two harvests were collect in 2007 and three in 2008 due to lack of rainfall.
New varieties that are endophyte free or that contain a non-toxic
endophyte (eg., Jessup Max Q) have potential to increase animal performance,
especially during the summer grazing season, and to provide forage for beef
cattle and sheep during autumn and early winter.
The perennial ryegrass trial at South Charleston also had
low yields in 2008. Only three harvests
were made due to the reduced growth from below normal rainfall. Perennial
ryegrass (diploid and tetraploid) is the most winter hardy of the ryegrass
types. A couple of varieties in the
ryegrass trial were festuloliums, which are crosses between annual
ryegrass and fescue. They generally are more winter-hardy and slightly more
drought tolerant than perennial ryegrass, although those characteristics vary by
variety as can be seen in this trial
Total forage yields in the annual ryegrass trial seeded September 2007 ranged
from 1.74 to 5.76 tons/acre among varieties (Table 11). Annual ryegrass is a
cool-season annual bunch grass that is highly palatable and digestible. It has
high seedling vigor and is well adapted to either conventional or no-till
establishment methods. A new trial was
seeded in September 2008; however, no yields were collected this fall due to dry
Warm Season Annual Grasses
Warm season grass trials were seeded in June 2008 to compare varieties of teff,
sorghum x sudangrass, and forage sorghum. Establishment and management details
were common across all species.
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
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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, Keith L. Smith,
Director, Ohio State University Extension.