Ohio Crop Performance Trials

Weather data summary for the 2015-growing season

Alfalfa Trials

Performance summary - Standard trials (insecticide applied)

Wooster, Ohio - 2013 Seeding

South Charleston, Ohio - 2014 Seeding

North Baltimore, Ohio - 2014 Seeding

Wooster, Ohio - 2016 Seeding

Grass Trials

Orchardgrass Variety Trial - South Charleston, OH - 2014 Spring Seeding

Tall Fescue Variety Trial - South Charleston, OH - 2014 Spring Seeding

Annual Ryegrass Variety Trial - South Charleston, OH - 2015 Fall Seeding

Cover Crop Evaluation Trial - South Charleston, OH - 2015

Address of Marketers

Download files of yield data for 2016:

All Yield Trials - PDF for Printing

Alfalfa Yield Trials - Excel

Grass Yield Trials - Excel

Forage Variety Trials in Other States

Forage Quality and Disease Information from Wisconsin and Minnesota

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 http://estore.osu-extension.org.

Interpreting Yield Data

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.

 Guidelines 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 website, at http://www.uwex.edu/ces/forage/pubs/varinfo.htm.

Consider these factors when selecting alfalfa varieties for Ohio:

1.      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.

 2.      Persistence.  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.

 3.      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.

 4.      Disease resistance.  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:

 5.      Insect resistance.  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.

 6.      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.

7.      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.

  Tall Fescue

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 31+).

  Annual Ryegrass

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 seedling vigor.

  Cover Crop

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.

Go to Ohio Crop Performance

All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a non-discriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status.

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.