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  • Writer's pictureMD-DE Forage Council

2020 Orchardgrass Variety Trial Update

by Amanda Grev, Agriculture & Food Systems, Western Maryland Research and Education Center

As new forage varieties continue to be developed and released, the efficacy and performance of these varieties needs to be evaluated. Similarly, as forage and livestock producers are making decisions on which forage species and variety to establish, it is helpful to compare performance data from a number of available varieties. To this end, the University of Maryland Extension Forage Team is in the process of establishing a series of forage variety trials.

In September 2019, an orchardgrass variety trial was established at the Western Maryland Research and Education Center (WMREC) in Keedysville, MD in order to evaluate select orchardgrass varieties based on forage pro-duction and quality. Plots were arranged in a randomized complete block design with each individual entry replicated four times. All varieties were planted at a rate of 25 pounds per acre; seed was broadcast and then culti-packed to establish good seed-to-soil contact. The varieties planted included: Alpine, Bounty II, Extend, HLR Blend, Inavale, Olathe, Pennlate, and Rushmore II.

Data collection began when the majority of forage varieties reached the boot stage of development (prior to seed head emergence). The first cutting occurred on May 18, 2020; this was followed by a second cutting on August 3, 2020 and a third and final cutting on September 28, 2020. At each cutting, forage biomass was collected along a 3 ft. by 20 ft. strip from the center of each plot using a forage harvester set to a cutting height of 4 inches. Collected biomass was weighed, dried in a forced air oven, and weighed again for dry matter and forage yield determination. Sub-samples were also taken from each plot and sent to a commercial laboratory for forage quality analysis.

Seasonal cumulative yield for all orchardgrass varieties ranged from 3.6 to 3.8 tons per acre (Figure 1). Statistical analysis indicates no significant difference in forage yield among any of the varieties for the 2020 growing season. Forage quality analysis is underway; forage quality results will be shared once the analysis is complete.

A big thank you to Jeff Semler and the entire WMREC crew for their assistance in getting this trial started and their help with harvest and data collection. Seed for this study was donated by DLF Pickseed, Seedway, and Kings Agriseeds. These plots will continue to be evaluated for yield, quality, and additional performance parameters in the coming years. We hope to expand the trial to include multiple locations, as well as additional forage species and varieties.

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