COMPATIBILITY, YIELD, AND QUALITY OF MATUA PRAIRIE GRASS, Bromus willdenowii (Kunth), WITH LEGUMES.
Guay, Jennifer Fincham
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Matua prairie grass has a potential to extend the grazing season in Virginia due to its higher early spring and fall production. However, little is known about the compatibility of Matua prairie grass with legumes or the effects of legumes on the yield and quality of Matua prairie grass/legume mixtures. An experiment was conducted in 1998 and 1999 to investigate the botanical composition, yield, and chemical composition of Matua prairie grass grown with legumes. Legume treatments consisting of ladino clover (Trifolium repens), red clover (Trifolium pratense), alfalfa (Medicago sativa), and annual lespedeza (Lespedeza stipulacea) were drilled into a Matua prairie grass stand. Nitrogen was applied once each fall at two treatment levels of 0 or 84 kg/ha. The experiment was arranged in a randomized split block design with four replications. Legume treatments had no effect on percentage Matua prairie grass or total dry matter yield in 1998. However, in 1999 the ladino clover and red clover treatments increased (P<0.05) total dry matter yield, but also resulted in a substantial decrease (P<0.05) in percentage Matua prairie grass. Nitrogen application in the fall of 1998 had a residual effect (P<0.05) on the percentage Matua prairie grass and yield in 1999. The highest response to nitrogen fertilization occurred in the harvest immediately after fertilization, in October of 1999, which resulted in the largest increase (P<0.05) in percentage Matua prairie grass and yield, and the greatest decrease (P<0.05) in percentage legumes. The legume and nitrogen treatments similarly influenced the chemical composition of the Matua prairie grass/legume mixed forage. Ladino clover, red clover, and alfalfa treatments generally improved forage quality as indicated by a decrease (P<0.05) in NDF, ADF, hemicellulose, and cellulose, and an increase (P<0.05) in CP and IVDMD. Nitrogen fertilization did not influence the chemical composition of the forages to the same extent as the legume treatments, as a decrease in fiber components and an increase in CP and IVDMD were observed due to nitrogen. Overall, alfalfa appeared to be most compatible with Matua prairie grass, and the incorporation of alfalfa into a Matua prairie grass stand resulted in some improvements in total dry matter yield and nutritive value of the forage, without the detrimental suppression of Matua prairie grass.
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