Which wheat varieties maximize fall forage production in Kansas?

Agronomy eUpdate

KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY –- Fall forage yield is an important aspect of dual-purpose wheat production. In a dual-purpose system, to maximize forage production, wheat is typically: sown earlier than for grain-only production, sown at higher seeding rates, and with additional nitrogen fertilizer.

Fall weather is a crucial factor regarding forage yield, with warm, moist weather typically resulting in greater forage yield than cool, dry weather conditions. As mentioned earlier, management practices that can increase forage yield are early sowing, higher seeding rates, placement of in-furrow phosphorus fertilizer with the seed at sowing, and fall nitrogen fertilization.

While the weather is typically the predominant factor in determining fall forage production, followed by management practices, there are also differences among wheat varieties in forage production potential. Each year, the K-State Wheat Production Group compares the forage yield of several commonly grown wheat varieties and upcoming lines. This test is usually performed in the South Central Experimental Field near Hutchinson, Kansas (Figure 1), and the forage sampling occurs sometime during December.

Figure 1. Dual-purpose wheat trial near Hutchinson, KS. The trial was sown on September 19, 2018, with 50 lbs DAP/ac applied in furrow, and 90 lbs N/ac broadcast incorporated prior to sowing. Photo was taken on December 10, 2018, the same day forage samples were collected.

Results from forage yield comparisons

There was a significant difference in fall forage yield among the 36 different wheat varieties tested in 2018 (Table 1). Forage yield ranged from 1397 lbs DM/ac (pounds dry matter per acre) in Langin to 2700 lbs DM/ac in OK13209. All varieties listed between OK13209 and TAM 204 (2094 lbs DM/ac) were not statistically different with the least significant difference (LSD) of 610 lbs DM/ac. Similarly, there was not a statistical difference between the varieties Langin and OK12716 (2000 lbs DM/ac).

Table 1. Fall forage yield of wheat varieties sown under a dual-purpose system near Hutchinson, KS. Data is shown in pounds of dry matter per acre (lbs DM/ac). The least significant difference (LSD) is shown, with highest yielding groups highlighted in bold. Varieties are ordered from highest to lowest yield.

Variety Forage (12/10/2018)

(lbs DM/ac)

OK13209 2700
SY Achieve CL2 2615
Bentley 2557
EXP 2547
Joe 2470
Whistler 2442
Spirit Rider 2399
Doublestop CL Plus 2385
WB4515 2369
Bob Dole 2366
Paradise 2146
Gallagher 2143
Smith’s Gold 2106
WB4595 2106
AM Eastwood 2104
Lonerider 2099
TAM 204 2094
Zenda 2054
Iba 2038
EXP 40-1 2035
OK12716 2000
WB4303 1970
Tatanka 1967
WB4792 1937
SY Grit 1920
Larry 1902
WB-Grainfield 1852
SY Benefit 1838
Byrd 1831
WB4269 1824
Ruby Lee 1822
WB4699 1798
Stardust 1775
SY Rugged 1653
NE10478-1 1519
Langin 1397
LSD 610

Another important aspect of dual-purpose wheat production is how long each variety can be grazed in the spring. This is measured as the date of first hollow stem, and varieties can differ up to 20-30 days in reaching first hollow stem in the spring. The Wheat Production Group at K-State uses this same trial to measure first hollow stem during late February and early March.

As always, stay up-to-date on the progress of the 2019 wheat crop with the Extension Agronomy eUpdate.

Romulo Lollato, Extension Wheat and Forages Specialist

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