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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

September 17, 2019 - 8:39am --

Small grains planted this fall can protect soil from erosion as a cover crop and provide a forage crop next spring.  This week, Jason Hartschuh, Extension Educator in Crawford County provides some thoughts on choosing which small grain matches your need.

Winter wheat, barley, triticale, and cereal rye planted in the fall can produce high quality forage in the spring when harvest is in the boot stage. There are differences between these species in terms of maturity rate or quality in the soft dough growth stage. Rye grows and matures faster than the other cereals making it the ideal choice for double cropping with corn silage but also matures the most quickly, presenting harvest timing challenges. After this past spring is it time to diversify our spring forage options to spread out harvest timing and risk?

Planting date is critical for maximizing tonnage with highest yields being achieved with planting dates 10 days sooner than the hessian fly free date but be cautious of hessian fly infestation and barley yellow dwarf virus. Timely planting improves tillering. Variety selection is an important factor in yield and rate of maturity. Most of the cereal rye planted is variety not stated but trials from Kentucky, Georgia, and North Dakota show yield variation between varieties to be ¾ to 2 tons DM in most planting locations. Triticale also has variability averaging ¾ ton DM between varieties.  In the North Dakota study, triticale varieties had the highest average yield with 2.66 tons, then wheat at 2.22 tons and finally rye yielding 1.86 tons. The rye was harvested a week before the triticale and two weeks before wheat.

Barley is the least winter hardy small grain and should be sown earlier in the fall with an ideal planting date in early September. It should not be planted in wet soils, sandy soils, or low fertility soils. It tends to have lower dry matter yields but is higher digestibility with lower lignin than other small grains when harvested in the boot stage.

Wheat is the most common small grain in the area but not the best option for wet soils. While there are special forage varieties, grain varieties tend to yield more tons than barley. The greatest benefit of wheat is that it matures later than other small grains allowing for a larger harvest window. It also holds quality into bloom much better than rye with yields increasing by 50 percent when cut in bloom instead of boot stage. Wheat should not be planted before the fly free date.

Rye is the most common small grain used for forage, but it also matures the earliest and declines rapidly in palatability and quality from the boot stage on. It is the most winter hardy of all small grains and handles wet soils the best. There is a new variety of rye on the market that is a hybrid developed in Europe, while there is little work done on it in the US it has higher forage quality and grain yield than traditional cereal rye.

Triticale is a cross between rye and wheat. Triticale yield and quality has been increasing with every new variety released. It matures slower than rye but should still be harvested in the boot stage. Planting a week before fly free date has been shown to increase yields in New York by about 20 percent. Studies have shown it responds to higher nitrogen rates without lodging as compared to rye.  What small grain mix will work to help you to better manage spring harvest timing and weather?

Livestock Mortality Composting Certification

As rendering and burial options for livestock mortality become more limiting or restrictive, composting livestock mortality is a good and environmentally friendly alternative.  To legally compost livestock mortality in Ohio, producers are required to attend a livestock mortality composting training that certifies them to compost livestock mortality.  Wayne County Extension is offering a livestock mortality composting training session on Wednesday, October 2, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.  The session will be held in the commissioners meeting room in the county administration building.  Pre-register by contacting the Wayne County Extension office at 330-264-8722 by Monday, September 30.  Cost is $5 per participant, which includes a composting manual.


Agricultural Pesticide Disposal

The Ohio Department of Agriculture will be sponsoring a collection for farmers wishing to dispose of unwanted, unused and outdated agricultural pesticides on September 24 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Kidron Livestock Auction parking lot behind the barns at 4885 Kidron Rd., in Kidron. Thanks to John Sprunger and the Kidron Auction for providing the collection space.   Pesticides that can be disposed of include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. The pesticide collection and disposal service are free of charge, but only farm chemicals will be accepted.  Paint, antifreeze, solvents, and household or non-farm pesticides will not be accepted.

To pre-register, or for more information, contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture at 614-728-6987.


Rory Lewandowski is an OSU Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.

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