Small Grains Forage Management and Evaluation in Central Texas
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Hard Red Winter (HRW) and Soft Red Winter (HRW) wheat classes (Triticum aestivum L.) and oat (Avena sativa L.) are commonly established as a source of winter and spring forage for cattle grazing in many regions of Texas and the U.S. Southern Great Plains. Small grains used in these grazed systems offer the flexibility of management for season long forage production or production of both forage and grain (dual-purpose). Many commercially available and experimental cultivars are continually evaluated on their ability to produce grain, but little yield data is available on wheat and oats under dual-purpose management systems. In forage production systems, soil fertility management is also an integral component in meeting specific yield goals that producers depend upon to sustain adequate animal performance. Current nitrogen (N) recommendations in Texas are based on heavy, moderate, and light levels of grazing. To address these issues, two-year studies were initiated at three locations in Central Texas. The objectives of these studies were; (1) to evaluate thirty wheat and ten oat cultivars based on forage production and grain yield to identify those best suited to dual-purpose management; (2) to determine winter wheat forage yield potential at varying levels of N fertility; and (3) to evaluate five minimally invasive and non-destructive methods of quantifying forage yield. Results from dual-purpose cultivar evaluations included significant differences in forage yield, nutritive value, and grain yield between cultivars and species. Overall, oat produced less forage than either class of wheat, but Mg content was generally higher in oat. For grain production, SRW performed better under irrigation, but in dryland situations both wheat classes performed equally. We also found that pre-plant N fertilizer significantly reduced stand establishment in dry environments. The 67 kg ha-1 pre-plant N and the 45 kg ha-1 top-dress rates produced the highest forage yield. Nutritive value generally increased as N application rate increased, even when no yield increase was observed. Hand clipping and canopy height both correlated very well with full plot harvest and visual ratings and NDVI had moderate relationships with full plot harvest. The relationship between ground cover and dry matter yield was variable and only weakly correlated.
forage quantification methodology
Franks, Aaron Michael (2013). Small Grains Forage Management and Evaluation in Central Texas. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from