Livestock and forage production are the largest contributors to agricultural income in the southern Great Plains. Small grains are an integral part of forage production in our region.
Distribution of forage yield is as important as total yield. Warm-season grasses are productive from May to September and can be extended up to October. Cool-season perennials are available from March to May. There is a gap from September to March when small grains can serve the best. The main focus of the Noble Research Institute's small grain breeding program is to develop improved forage-type varieties with potential for early fall-winter production that can be used exclusively in "graze-out" livestock programs. Early fall-winter forage allows producers better flexibility for earlier grazing and/or increased stockpiling.
Cereal rye is an important forage crop with potential for early fall-winter forage. It has always performed better than any small grains in the light-textured soils of the Red River Valley. The cereal rye breeding program at the Noble Research Institute was initiated in the early 1950s. Since then, five forage cereal rye varieties have been released. Two of these varieties, "Maton" and "Oklon," are widely grown by livestock and forage producers across the southern U.S.
"Maton II" (Fig. 1) is the latest variety released from our program. The total and fall-winter dry forage yield of Maton II was 6,255 and 3,320 lb/ac (Fig. 2). It produced 55 percent more fall-winter forage and 6 percent more total forage than Maton. The total forage yield of Maton II was the highest in southern Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana trials. Seed of Maton II should be commercially available through TOPCO in Enid, Okla., during 2009 and 2010.
In the early 1970s, wheat, triticale and oat were also included in the Noble Research Institute's breeding program. Significant improvements have been made on the genetic stocks, and several breeding lines are now available with potential for future release as improved varieties.
NF95134A is a hard red winter wheat with prolific growth habit and average lodging resistance. It produced more total and early fall-winter forage than the commonly grown wheat varieties in the southern Oklahoma trials. NF95134A was found highly resistant to powdery mildew and also possesses high levels of resistance to leaf and stripe rust.
NF27 is a winter-hardy oat with excellent fall-winter forage potential (Fig. 3). NF27 has produced more total forage than the commonly grown oat cultivars in the southern Oklahoma trials. During five years (2001-2006) of testing at Ardmore and Burneyville, the average fall-winter and total forage yield of NF27 was 25 percent and 6 percent higher than "Dallas," respectively. During the same period, the early forage yield of NF27 was 29 percent greater than Harrison with 27 percent more total forage production. Average yield of NF27 during that period was 5,104 lb/ac, of which more than 48 percent was produced during the early fall-winter period.
NF96210 is an awned, winter-type triticale with erect juvenile growth habit and mid-tall height at maturity. It has excellent early fall-winter forage potential. NF96210 yielded more than all the triticale check varieties in the light-textured soils of the Red River Valley.
The NF95134A wheat, the NF27 oat and the NF96210 triticale varieties are expected to be released in 2009 with seed commercially available in 2010-2011.