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Which wheat varieties maximize fall forage production in Kansas?

By Romulo Lollato

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.