Hay supplies during 2012 were almost non-existent after less than ideal weather from October to May. An abnormally early wheat harvest provided an excellent opportunity to plant a fall cover crop, which could be harvested as forage if growth was sufficient.
Wet feet in October 2011 took its toll on alfalfa fields, followed by extremely warm weather in March2012 that kick started early growth. Dry weather throughout March, April and May (40% of normal rainfall) doubled up with hard frosts repeatedly killing the unusually early growth. This forced plants to have to regrow from the crown, and left many hay producers with only 50% of a normal first cut harvest. This hay shortage had livestock producers scrambling. Early harvested wheat fields gave an excellent opportunity to replace some forage shortfall, with cover crops for hay.
As producers considered this opportunity, it became obvious that virtually no data existed on the best crop to fill this void. Even once the cover crop species was chosen, management for optimum forage yield was unknown. Optimum seeding and nitrogen rates were major areas were data was minimal or even non-existent.
This trial was initiated to determine agronomic recommendations for cereal crops grown as forage following a winter wheat crop.