2021-100: Including native forages in mixture to enhance late season forage quality and carbon sequestration
Researcher: Jonathan Bennett
Both tame and native grasses can hold benefits for Saskatchewan grasslands, though there is not enough information for producers who would like to grow them together in a stand.
Western and northern wheatgrass produce forage yields and forage quality similar to - or better than - many common tame grasses when grown in binary moisture with tame legume species. Establishing these native species can be difficult, especially given high seed costs. However, native species do have advantages. Little bluestem is a perennial warm season grass and that can perform well in mixtures with western wheatgrass. Other species, such as Canada milkvetch, has been shown to outperform alfalfa in forage production and digestibility in some studies.
There are reasons tame and native mixtures have not been emphasized in the past, likely due to tame grasses growing earlier than native grasses, giving them a better advantage. Harvest intervals might also play a large role in the success of various stands. This project, based at the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence and then the Agriculture and Agri-Foods Research Station at Swift Current, will identify mixes with native and tame species that maximize the growing season, compare early season one cut systems to an early season two cut system, and note environmental benefits (i.e., carbon sequestration and nutrient retention.)
As feed costs are the highest costs on farms and ranches, the economic value of these stands is critical. This research team will note changes in production and hay prices between wet and dry years and find the most economically viable tame and native species mixture.