Orchardgrass and Tall Fescue Variety Responses in
Forage Livestock Systems in West Virginia
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Edward B. Rayburn, Ph. D. , West Virginia University, Extension Forage Agronomist
E. Smolders,
West Virginia University, Extension Agent - Jackson County
J. Lozier, West Virginia University, Extension Research Assistant III
P. Osborne,West Virginia University, Extension Livestock Specialist

Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata, L.) and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea, Schreb.) are the two most important commercially available forage grasses in West Virginia. In combination with bluegrasses (Poa sp.), redtop (Agrostis alba L.), and associated legumes, these forages are the basic feed resource for the state’s livestock industry. The best variety for a given site is determined by the local soil and management. The purpose of this study was to evaluate commercially available orchardgrass and tall fescue varieties under management typical to West Virginia forage-livestock systems.

Orchardgrass and endophyte-free tall fescue varieties (Table 1) were compared at two sites. In Jackson County the stands were grown under a nitrogen fertilized hay management. First cut hay was taken in late May. The stands were then stockpiled for fall grazing with additional nitrogen applied in August. The late fall regrowth was measured for yield but not grazed since livestock were not available. In Monongalia County the stands were managed in mixture with red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) and ladino clover (Trifolium repens L.) for hay and aftermath grazing. The first cut hay was taken in late May. Aftermath growths were grazed rotationally by beef cows and calves. The red clover was frost seeded over the plots in the spring of 1994. Endophyte-infected Kentucky 31 tall fescue was included at both locations as a control.

In Jackson County, 6 by 15-foot plots were seeded on a Moshannon silt loam soil on Aug. 16, 1993 using a cone planter (small-plot cultipack seeder). In Monongalia County, 15 by 50-foot plots were seeded on a Westmoreland silt loam soil on Aug. 19, 1993 using a cultipack seeder. Plots were laid out using four replications. In Jackson County, orchardgrass was seeded at 8 lb./a and tall fescue was seeded at 12 lb./a. In Monongalia County both species were seeded at 15 lb./a.

Soil samples were tested at the West Virginia University Soil Testing Laboratory. Lime, phosphorus, and potassium were applied based on WVU recommendation. In Jackson County nitrogen was applied at 50 lb./a at spring green-up and again in early August for stockpiling. In Monongalia County the grasses were grown with clover providing nitrogen. In 1994 to stimulate tillering in the new seeding, stands in Monongalia county received urea at the rate of 50 lb./a of nitrogen.

Weeds were controlled by mowing. Stands were rated for ground cover (scale of 0-10, 0 being no cover and 10 being complete cover) in the spring of 1994. Stands were rated for seed head maturity at hay harvest. Stands were visually rated for legume and weed content in 1995.

Dry matter yield was evaluated by measuring the forage canopy height when depressed with an acrylic plate meter (TRIM Fact Sheet 5022 - "An Acrylic Plastic Weight Plate for Estimating Forage Yield"). Calibration samples were measured for plate height and clipped to determine yield per inch of height. Forage was measured in late April or early May to evaluate spring pasture yield. Hay yields were measured in late May and plots were harvested when the forage was in the heading stage. Due to poor weather conditions only one hay cut was made each year in Jackson County with a sampling for stockpile forage yield in late fall. In Monongalia County one hay harvest and two or three grazing harvests were made.

Statistical analyses were conducted using analysis of variance and regression analysis. Least significant differences were calculated when analysis of variance showed a significant treatment effect. Relative yield was calculated by dividing the yield for a variety by the mean yield of all varieties in that harvest or year.

Results

Due to hot dry weather after seeding, fall establishment was slow. In April of 1994 stands were comparable to an early spring seedings (55 to 80 percent ground cover). First-year hay yields were not taken. In the first year plots were managed using clipping or grazing, along with supplemental N, to increase plant tillering. In Jackson County that fall, growth was adequate to take yield data from the fall deferred forage. However, in the fall of 1995 forage yields were not taken due to an early snow. The annual cycle for the first year at Jackson County was the 12 months from 1 Aug. 1994 to 1 Aug. 1995.

Annual Forage Yield

Yields of varieties grown under N-fertilized hay management (Jackson), differed significantly (Table 2). Total yields of grasses grown in mixture with red clover (Monongalia) were not significantly different (Table 3).

With the exception of two orchardgrasses, varieties which were above average in yield at one location were also above average at the other (Table 4). However, Haymate and Pennlate orchardgrass had low relative yields under the nitrogen hay management (Jackson) but had high relative yields when grown with red clover (Monongalia). These late heading varieties have a less vigorous spring growth that allows an increase in clover growth which added to the total yield.

Orchardgrass varieties differed in yield by up to 21 and 15 percent while tall fescue varieties differed by 7 and 9 percent in Jackson and Monongalia County respectively. This shows that variety selection can have a significant impact on forage yield, but management system may affect how a forage variety responds.

Spring Pasture Yield

Spring pasture yield of orchardgrass was consistently highest for the early heading varieties Benchmark, Dart, and Shiloh (Table 5) and lowest for the late heading varieties Haymate, Pennlate, and Shawnee. Fawn was the most productive tall fescue in the spring growth while Phyter was the least productive two out of three times. The spring forage yield was highly correlated with variety maturity class (heading stage in late May) and the site and year growing conditions (r2 = 0.86, standard deviation about the regression 240 lb./acre).

Fall Pasture Yield

Tall fescue produced more forage for fall grazing than orchardgrass when grown under nitrogen fertilization (Jackson). Early heading orchardgrass varieties tended to produced more forage for fall grazing than late heading varieties. This difference was significant in 1996. When the varieties were grown with clover (Monongalia), there was not a significant difference in fall yields. Fall yields were measured before frost damaged the legume in the stand. If stands had been used for pasture after heavy freezes, a significant portion of the legume forage may have been lost and yields reduced.

Variety Heading Date

Forage quality is affected by the reproductive maturity of cool-season grass. As the grass goes to head, digestibility and intake by livestock decreases. For this reason late heading grasses are often preferred by hay producers. Orchardgrass varieties, Benchmark, Dart, and Shiloh were early heading while Haymate, Pennlate, and Shawnee were late heading. Tall fescue varieties, Fawn and Forager were early heading while Kentucky 31 and Stargrazer were late heading (Table 6).

When early and late heading grass varieties are harvested at the same growth stage, the early varieties will usually have higher quality since they are harvested earlier. Early heading varieties harvested for haylage at the proper maturity can make high quality feed. If dry hay harvest is delayed until seeds form, there is little value in using late heading varieties.

Stand Vigor and Competition

When the grass-clover plots (Monongalia) were rated for legume content there were significant differences between varieties. When comparing the effect of heading date on legume content, it was shown that late heading varieties tended to have more legume than early heading varieties (P<0.11) in the regrowth but not in the first growth (Table 7). As previously discussed, early heading varieties were more vigorous than late ones during seedling, spring, and fall growth. This resulted in more competition to legumes (P<0.05) and weeds (P<0.10) under the given haying and grazing management.

Field observations across the state suggest that late heading orchardgrass varieties provide little competition with weeds. Late heading orchardgrass varieties may also be less competitive with legumes than some early heading varieties. However, when an orchardgrass-clover mix is grown, the harvest management can be tailored to the needs of the legume to reduce the grass competition. This was not possible in this trial.

Conclusions

There were significant differences between varieties of orchardgrass and endophyte-free tall fescue. The yield ranking of a grass variety depended on the site and management system in which it was used. Late heading orchardgrass varieties had lower spring pasture yields and tended to also have lower fall pasture yields. Late heading orchardgrass tended to be less competitive with weeds as well as legumes. Growing the grass varieties with red clover tended to mask yield differences. When selecting a forage variety, managers should take care to match the variety and its place in a management system. Forage yields can be affected up to 20 percent due to variety selection. However, cultural and harvest management may interact with forage variety and have a greater affect on yield and quality than does the variety selected.

Table 1. Orchardgrass and endophyte-free tall fescue varieties seeded in 1993 and the companies which supplied the seed for the variety demonstration.

Orchardgrass Company
Able Southern States
Benchmark Southern States
Crown Wetzel
Dart Beachly Hardy
Hallmark Southern States
Haymate Southern States
Pennlate Wetzel
Potomac Agway, Wetzel
Rough Rider Hoffman Seeds
Shawnee Agway
Shiloh Green Seed
Tall Fescue Company
Cattle Club Green Seed
Fawn Agway
Forager Southern States
Johnstone Agway, Southern States, Wetzel
Kentucky 31 Southern States
Phyter Southern States
Stargrazer Southern States

 

Table 2. Forage yields in Jackson Co. over two years by harvest date.

----------------- 1995 -----------------

----------------- 1996 -----------------

Variety

15-May

13-Oct.

total

20-May

14-Nov.

total

---------------------------------------------- lb./acre ------------------------------------------------------

Orchardgrass

Able

4920

1654

6574

3302

1576

4878

Benchmark

5115

1506

6621

3580

1797

5377

Crown

4409

1389

5798

3148

1612

4760

Dart

4910

1512

6422

3419

1718

5137

Hallmark

4607

1512

6119

3382

1734

5116

Haymate

4567

1407

5974

3253

1450

4703

Pennlate

4414

1543

5957

2925

1485

4410

Potomac

4705

1494

6199

3364

1655

5019

Rough Rider

4631

1518

6150

3296

1665

4961

Shawnee

3740

1512

5252

2845

1532

4377

Shiloh

4915

1450

6366

3697

1866

5563

Tall fescue

Cattle Club

4066

1901

5967

3018

1853

4871

Fawn

4194

1901

6095

3524

1965

5489

Forager

4251

1815

6066

3314

1952

5266

Johnstone

4560

1944

6504

3141

1776

4918

Kentucky31

3999

2006

6005

3302

1991

5293

Phyter

4313

1907

6220

3179

1998

5177

Stargrazer

3982

1956

5939

2845

2006

4851

Average

4461

1663

6124

3252

1757

5009

Least Significant Difference

624

246

646

325

312

540

 

Table 3. Forage yields in Monongalia Co. over two years by harvest date.

----------------- 1995 -------------------

----------------- 1996 ------------------

Variety

22-May

07-July

02-Oct.

total

23-May

17-July

31-Oct.

total

----------------------------------------- lb./acre ----------------------------------------------

Orchardgrass

Able

7030

2975

1620

10817

4870

2702

1991

9563

Benchmark

6694

3074

1812

10874

4999

2696

1813

9508

Crown

6389

3395

1586

10437

4856

2461

1971

9288

Dart

6994

3395

2152

12172

4820

2837

2179

9836

Hallmark

6779

3308

1718

10914

4438

2664

2058

9159

Haymate

7614

3172

1681

11697

4765

2669

1956

9390

Pennlate

7549

3432

1798

11922

4870

2829

2077

9776

Potomac

7004

3370

1819

11301

4728

2539

1982

9249

Rough Rider

6714

3234

1670

10697

4215

2503

2166

8885

Shawnee

5903

3419

1427

9711

4388

2711

2117

9216

Shiloh

6806

3111

1794

10975

5289

2734

2235

10259

Tall fescue

Cattle Club

6127

3444

1790

10486

4975

2338

2135

9448

Fawn

5784

3469

1834

10228

4438

2224

2337

8999

Forager

6316

3135

1931

10707

4228

2250

2360

8838

Johnstone

6127

3024

1702

10175

4246

2222

2184

8652

Kentucky 31

5798

2925

1560

9654

4240

2154

2052

8446

Phyter

5999

2913

1615

9874

4215

2254

2079

8548

Stargrazer

5881

3432

1801

10202

4567

2329

2217

9113

Average

6528

3235

1739

10714

4619

2506

2106

9232

Least Significant Difference

1200

ns

ns

ns

ns

470

ns

ns

 

Table 4. The two year relative yield (yield expressed as a fraction of the mean trial yield) for Jackson and Monongalia variety trials.

Jackson

Monongalia

Variety

Relative Dry Matter Yield

Orchardgrass

Able

1.03

1.02

Benchmark

1.08

1.02

Crown

0.95

0.99

Dart

1.04

1.10

Hallmark

1.01

1.01

Haymate

0.96

1.06

Pennlate

0.93

1.09

Potomac

1.01

1.03

Rough Rider

1.00

0.98

Shawnee

0.87

0.95

Shiloh

1.07

1.06

Tall fescue

Cattle Club

0.97

1.00

Fawn

1.04

0.96

Forager

1.02

0.98

Johnstone

1.03

0.94

Kentucky 31

1.02

0.91

Phyter

1.02

0.92

Stargrazer

0.97

0.97

Average

1.00

1.00

 

Table 5. Early spring pasture yield in 1995 and 1996.

Jackson

------ Monongalia ------

3 year

Variety

25-Apr-95

26-Apr-95

07-May-96

relative yield

----------------------- lb./acre --------------------------

Orchardgrass

Able

2037

2608

3388

0.95

Benchmark

2561

2611

3814

1.06

Crown

2338

2547

4024

1.04

Dart

2512

2687

4018

1.09

Hallmark

2460

2572

3290

1.00

Haymate

2010

2289

3228

0.89

Pennlate

1992

2016

3611

0.89

Potomac

2405

2564

3753

1.03

Rough Rider

2432

2387

3623

1.00

Shawnee

1869

1839

3049

0.79

Shiloh

2691

2555

4555

1.14

Tall fescue

Cattle Club

2407

2445

3561

1.00

Fawn

2765

2779

3999

1.13

Forager

2617

2489

3265

1.00

Johnstone

2607

2556

3444

1.03

Kentucky31

2489

2528

3012

0.97

Phyter

2597

2375

3092

0.97

Stargrazer

2508

2532

3555

1.02

Average

2405

2466

3571

Least Significant Difference

395

318

703

 

Table 6.  Growth stage of varieties in 1995 and 1996.

------ Jackson ------

Monongalia

Variety

15-May-95

20-May-96

22-May-95

Orchardgrass

Able

8.3

8.0

7.3

Benchmark

9.0

12.0

9.0

Crown

9.0

11.0

9.0

Dart

9.0

11.5

9.0

Hallmark

9.0

12.0

9.0

Haymate

6.5

8.5

7.0

Pennlate

6.5

6.5

7.0

Potomac

9.0

10.5

9.0

Rough Rider

9.0

11.0

8.9

Shawnee

5.0

5.0

6.8

Shiloh

8.5

12.5

9.0

Tall fescue

Cattle Club

8.5

8.0

9.0

Fawn

8.5

11.0

9.0

Forager

9.5

11.0

8.5

Johnstone

8.0

8.0

7.8

Kentucky31

7.8

7.5

8.0

Phyter

8.5

8.0

7.9

Stargrazer

7.8

6.0

7.5

Average

8.2

9.3

8.3

Least Significant Difference

1.2

2.0

0.8

Maturity rating scale:
3 = early boot 9 = early head
5 = mid boot 11 = full head
7 = late boot 13 = early bloom

 

Table 7.  Stand ratings and legume, weed, and grass content in two harvests.

Jackson

-------------------------------- Monongalia ---------------------------------

First harvest

------------ Second harvest ------------

Stand Rating

Stand Rating

legume %

legume %

weed %

grass %

Variety

18-Apr-94

14-Apr-94

22-May-95

27-Jun-95

27-Jun-95

27-Jun-95

Orchardgrass

Able

6.7

3.5

40

31

11

58

Benchmark

7.7

7.3

31

28

8

65

Crown

7.0

5.8

36

28

9

64

Dart

7.3

5.8

38

26

8

66

Hallmark

7.3

7.0

21

16

11

73

Haymate

5.5

2.3

25

26

9

65

Pennlate

5.5

3.3

34

33

9

59

Potomac

7.5

6.8

26

35

10

55

Rough Rider

7.5

7.8

23

18

11

71

Shawnee

5.8

5.0

29

35

9

56

Shiloh

8.0

5.5

31

28

5

68

Tall fescue

Cattle Club

6.0

5.5

44

35

6

59

Fawn

7.2

6.3

36

33

11

56

Forager

6.5

7.0

38

36

8

56

Johnstone

5.5

6.8

41

30

9

61

Kentucky31

7.0

7.0

29

35

8

58

Phyter

5.8

5.5

39

35

9

56

Stargrazer

6.8

5.0

36

28

9

64

Average

6.7

5.7

33

30

9

62

Least Significant Difference

ns

1.7

13

12

ns

10

Maturity rating scale:
3 = early boot 9 = early head
5 = mid boot 11 = full head
7 = late boot 13 = early bloom

Table 8.  Seed companies providing seed for the 1993 Forage Variety Demonstrations in Jackson and Monongalia Counties.

Agway Inc.
Crop Services
P.O. Box 4741
Syracuse NY 13221-4741
Beachley Hardy Seed Co.
Royal Seeds
P.O. Box 26
Mechanicsburg OH 43044
Green Seed Co.
P.O. Box 311
Paris KY 40361
 
Southern States Cooperative Inc.
P.O. Box 26234
Richmond VA 23260
Wetsel Seed Co.
P.O. Box 791
Harrisonburg VA 22801
Hoffman Seeds, Inc.
Landisville, PA 17538