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Strategies to extend forage production window in bermudagrass pastures

dos Santos, Bárbara Maressa
In Oklahoma, bermudagrass-based cattle producers rely on summer bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.] production excess to feed cattle from late fall to early spring. However, this excess forage may not be produced in dry years, and if good summer rainfall allows for forage surplus, harvesting hay is costly. Stockpiling bermudagrass is an alternative strategy to provide winter feed. Nevertheless, the low forage quality of stockpiled bermudagrass necessitates supplementation, meaning extra costs. On the other hand, winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) is a high-quality forage commonly cultivated in the area. Thus, interseeding winter wheat in dormant bermudagrass pastures may provide high-quality forage for the spring. Thus, our objective was to compare the total forage yield and quality of three different forage production systems: (i) in-season bermudagrass (BER), (ii) in-season + stockpiled bermudagrass (BER+STOCK), and (iii) interseeded winter wheat into bermudagrass (BER+WHEAT). Data were collected near Perkins, OK, in 2021 and 2022. The experiment was set in a randomized complete block design with four replications. The main plots were six bermudagrass varieties, and the subplots were the three different forage production systems. In-season bermudagrass forage was collected every six weeks (three harvests) during the summer, stockpiled bermudagrass forage was collected in the winter, and interseeded wheat forage was collected in late spring. Samples were dry, forage yield calculated, and nutritive value indicators analyzed. The BER+WHEAT system had the highest total forage production, followed by BER+STOCK and BER. In addition, almost half of the total forage produced in the BER+WHEAT was during late spring. The BER+WHEAT system increased total forage production while maintaining similar quality to in-season bermudagrass. Although the BER+STOCK system increased forage total season forage production compared to BER, its nutritive value was low, necessitating supplementation.