Mississippi State U expands forage species testing; New companions to old favorites like Annual Ryegrass

Until 2007, the forage testing program at Mississippi State University was limited to annual ryegrass. Nothing wrong with that particularly but producers continued to urge research agronomists to look at other species and varieties.

Then Rocky Lemus was hired and since then, the program has blossomed.”MSU has the only complete forage testing plots in the United States,” Lemus said. “We have 20 different species, 110 varieties and four different locations.”

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Rocky Lemus, associate professor of forage systems with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, leads the MSU official forage variety trials with plots containing 20 different species and 110 varieties at four locations across the state. (Photo by MSU Extension/Kat Lawrence)

Above - Rocky Lemus, associate professor of forage systems with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, leads the MSU official forage variety trials with plots containing 20 different species and 110 varieties at four locations across the state. (Photo by MSU Extension/Kat Lawrence)

Four different locations are used for test plots; both warm and cool season species are tested. And from the basic annual ryegrass, the mix of new options for livestock forage has expanded geometrically.

“Warm-season perennial grasses include bermudagrass and bahiagrass. Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids and pearl millets are summer annual grasses. Annual ryegrass and small grains (oats, wheat and cereal rye) are common winter annual grasses. Perennial cool-season tall fescue is grown extensively in the Prairie sections and in north Mississippi. Perennial legumes include sericea lespedeza.”

And legumes are also being tested, Lemus said. Annual lespedeza and alyce clover are warm-season annual legumes while alfalfa, white clovers and red clovers are perennial cool-season legumes. A large number of cool-season annual legumes include crimson, ball, berseem and arrowleaf clovers. Vetch and wild winter peas also are cool-season annual legumes.

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