2014 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 2014, including commercial
varieties of alfalfa, red clover, white clover orchardgrass, tall fescue and
annual ryegrass in tests planted in 2011 to 2014 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 11. 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 11. 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 330,000 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 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 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
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
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.
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 2014 Crop Conditions
Total rainfall for the season was above normal at all locations, with the
greatest deviation being at N. Baltimore (3.39 below normal). Rainfall in
April and June was above normal at all locations but was variable across
locations during the other months. Average monthly temperatures were above
normal from April through June, but tended to be below normal for July
The established trial at North Baltimore had the highest yields,
averaging 7.30 tons/acre. A new spring seeding at South Charleston was
established later than we recommend, but performed reasonably considering
the late planting date, with two harvests taken for a total annual yield of
1.48 tons/acre averaged across all varieties. Insecticide applications were
used at all locations for control of potato leafhopper (PLH) in the standard
Red & White
Red and white clover trials were seeded in 2013 at South Charleston.
Trials were sprayed after the first harvest for potato Leafhopper (PLH)
control to aid new growth due to the high numbers of PLH.
Red clover is better adapted than alfalfa to soils that are somewhat
poorly drained and slightly acidic; however, greatest production will occur
on well-drained soils with high water-holding capacity and pH above 6.0. Red
clover is not as productive as alfalfa in the summer and it generally
persists for a shorter time than alfalfa. New varieties are capable of
persisting into a third year.
White clover is a short-lived perennial that is well suited for pastures.
It spreads and persists over time by vegetative propagation of stolons and
by natural reseeding. White clover tolerates periods of poor drainage, but
does poorly in dry weather.
The new orchardgrass trial seeded at South Charleston had an average
yield of 1.54 tons/acre. The test was established later than we recommend
and therefore had weed competition in the first growth so yields are not
reported for the first harvest. Orchardgrass varieties can have significant
maturity differences. Varieties will be rated for maturity at harvest
beginning in 2015.
The tall fescue trial established at South Charleston in 2014 had an
average yield of 1.83 tons/acre. The test was established later than we
recommend and therefore had weed competition in the first growth so yields
are not reported for the first harvest. 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.
An annual ryegrass trial was planted in September of 2013 and was only harvested once in November 2013. Due to the harsh winter all but four varieties had severe winter injury or died, so the trial was terminated after the winter injury ratings were recorded. Annual ryegrass is a cool-season annual bunchgrass that is highly palatable and digestible. It has high seedling vigor.
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, Keith L. Smith, Director, Ohio State University Extension.