John McCormick and Mark Sulc, Ohio State University Extension
Results from the 2012 Ohio Forage Performance Trials are now available online at http://hostedweb.cfaes.ohio-state.edu/perf/. The report includes yield trials of commercial varieties of alfalfa, red and white clover, tall fescue, and annual ryegrass tests planted in 2008 to 2012 across three sites in Ohio: South Charleston, Wooster, and North Baltimore. There is also a downloadable pdf file for easy printing of the results, as well as downloadable Excel files.
Forage yields were very respectable despite the dry summer, although our testing sites received more rainfall than many areas of Ohio in 2012. Yields averaged from 5.8 to 6.5 tons/acre for alfalfa, 5.6 tons/acre for red clover, 2.4 tons/acre for white clover, 5.7 tons/acre for tall fescue, and 6.3 tons/acre for annual ryegrass (planted in September 2011).
The results demonstrate the importance of selecting adapted varieties with a proven yield record across locations. In our 2012 trials, individual alfalfa varieties varied in yield from 14 to 20% depending on location. Improved red clover varieties yielded up to 53% more than common (VNS) red clover. White clover varieties differed in yield by as much as 12.6%, tall fescue varieties differed by up to 7% yield, and annual ryegrass varieties differed by up to 42% yield.
Links to forage performance trials in other states are included on the Ohio Forage Performance Trials website. One very useful link is an interactive website to compare alfalfa varieties across many locations (including Ohio data). It is important to consider yield not only close to home, but across several environments, because every year represents different weather conditions. Varieties with good yield performance across multiple environments are likely to produce more stable yields across soil types and years on your farm.