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Forage Variety Production Notes: Bermudagrass, Alfalfa and Cool-Season Perennial Grass Evaluations

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Bermudagrass Evaluations
This report includes a brief production update for 2004 of two current bermudagrass variety trials on the Ardmore Headquarters Farm (HQF). This season marks the ninth year of production of the "old" variety test, established in May 1996. The test includes 11 sprigged varieties and experimental strains. In May 2000, a "new" test was initiated to compare the growth, production and persistence of 10 seeded varieties and mixtures with that of three benchmark sprigged varieties, "Tifton 44," "Midland 99" and "Ozark."

As of Aug. 25, the two tests had been clipped only two times each (May 27 and July 12) in 2004 (Figures 1 and 2). A third clipping was done the week of Aug. 25. Dry weather in May delayed the initiation of spring growth and the first clipping date. Persistent and above-average rainfall in June and early July resulted in about a 10- to 14-day delay of the second harvests. Moisture has been above normal for most of the summer, but temperatures have been well below normal and have slowed regrowth since the July 12 clipping date.

Figure 1 shows the production of dry matter per acre for each entry in the old test through July 12. Assuming favorable moisture and temperatures, we anticipate at least two more clippings before frost this fall. This season, "Hardie," "Russell" and "Coastal" have been the most productive in the spring. "Tifton 85," Midland 99 and Ozark have been somewhat slower in their recovery from winter dormancy. "Jiggs" continues to have slow spring recovery, and stands appear to be declining more with each season of production.

Dry matter forage production for each entry of the new test is shown in Figure 2. This test is located on a Heiden clay soil, and the dry weather in May resulted in slower overall spring forage recovery than was evident in the old test. Two of the sprigged varieties, Ozark and Tifton 44, exhibited the most early forage production and spring vigor in the test. "Giant" was once again the most productive spring forage variety of the seeded types. "Common," "Guymon" and "Wrangler" were the slowest to recover from winter dormancy as their yields were the lowest on the May 27 clipping date.

Alfalfa Evaluations
Two alfalfa variety trials were established in the fall of 2003; one at the Red River Demonstration and Research Farm (RRDRF) under a linear irrigation system and one on the HQF. The RRDRF test includes 24 entries, and the HQF test includes 22 entries. Thus far this season, the RRDRF test has been clipped four times with a fifth harvest anticipated soon. Moisture has been abundant with supplemental irrigation and above-average rainfall this summer. In fact, the third clipping in June was delayed by too much moisture, resulting in some loss of lower leaves and yield reduction. The overall average forage yield through four harvests is 8,470 lbs./acre of dry matter with yields ranging from 7,444 to 9,314 lbs. The HQF test has been clipped three times. The average yield is 5,193 lbs./acre with a range of 4,557 to 5,697 lbs. Abundant moisture in late June also delayed the third clipping at this location.

Cool-Season Perennial Grass Evaluations
The cool-season perennial grass test has been plagued by drought conditions since its establishment in the fall of 2002. Last growing season, in the establishment year, the yields were low, and no grazing would have been recommended, because seedlings were under severe drought stress to grow and develop. Again, below-normal moisture conditions persisted throughout most of the 20032004 growing season, and forage production has been curtailed dramatically (Figure 3). Many of the entries have suffered more than 50 percent stand loss since establishment. The average forage yield for the 11 entries was 1,770 lbs./acre (from three clippings), which is 28 percent above the overall average yields of last season. The yields of "Dovey" and "Jesup MaxQ" tall fescue, "Luna" and "Manska" pubescent wheatgrass and "Paiute" orchardgrass were similar to last years production. However, "Kentucky 31" tall fescue showed a decline this year. The other grasses, "Barton" western wheatgrass, "Hycrest" crested wheatgrass, "Lincoln" smooth bromegrass and "Bozoisky Russian" wildrye, were very slow to establish last year, but show an increase this year.