January 27, 2010
Contacts: see list at end of release

Farm Forage Yield Trial Results Now Online

The 2009 forage yield trial results for 180 varieties of eight types of forage legumes or grasses are helping farmers with critical decision-making for the 2010 planting season. Reports with season harvest totals as well as per cutting yields are now available online at www.nnyagdev.org.

A team of Cornell University researchers conducts the trials annually. Project leader Julie L. Hansen, a senior research associate with the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, says, “Plant breeders are continually developing and improving cultivars for such characteristics as forage quality and yield, and disease and insect resistance.”

The field trials — conducted at Cornell University fields in Ithaca, NY, and at W. H. Miner Agricultural Institute in Chazy, NY — provide data on how well the cultivars live up to breeder and farmer expectations.

The forages and grasses evaluated include alfalfa, red clover, birdsfoot trefoil, timothy, orchardgrass, tall fescue, bromegrass, and perennial ryegrass.

The farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program provided funding to evaluate alfalfa varieties at Cornell-managed field trials at Miner Institute. Testing the seed under NNY growing conditions is important for regional implications.

For example, Hansen says, “We have seen that cultivars that have fall dormancy ratings higher than 4 may have unacceptable winter-hardiness for New York, particularly in Northern New York.”

Field Crops Educator Michael E. Hunter with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County says, “The Cornell University forage legume and grass variety trials are excellent decision-making resources that farmers can use in the selection of the best forage legume or grass varieties for their farms. The variety trials provide farmers an opportunity to compare the grass yield, quality and maturity differences among varieties."

Michael H. Davis, farm manager at the Cornell E.V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm in Willsboro, oversees the field trials at Miner Institute. Davis says, “By hosting these field trials in the Northern New York, we can provide farmers with real world information about varietal performance under our unique regional growing conditions. This is data farmers can have confidence in when searching for varieties. The trials are designed to help prevent farmers from spending money on a variety that are well suited to their farms,” Davis says.

“The seed cost of improved cultivars can be higher than for other cultivars, but this cost is generally offset when there is improved performance at each harvest over the life of the stand,” Hansen adds. “Cultivar performance should be critically evaluated by comparing yield with other cultivars in two or more trials that are in the second or later year of production. The data help farmers select varieties that have the best opportunity to fit their forage programs.”

The complete results of the 2009 New York Forage Legume and Grass Variety Yield Trials by J. Hansen, D. Viands, R. Deubler, J. Crawford, E. Thomas, and J. Schiller is online at www.nnyagdev.org; click on Grass-based Agriculture. # # #

• Julie L. Hansen, Cornell University, 607-255-5043
• Michael H. Davis, Cornell EV Baker Agricultural Research Farm at Willsboro, 518-963-7492
NNY Cornell Cooperative Extension Field Crop Educators:
• Clinton County: Emily Myers, 518-353-4949
• Essex County: Anita Deming, 518-962-4810
• Franklin County: Stephen Canner, 518-483-7403
• Jefferson County: Michael E. Hunter, 315-788-8450
• Lewis County: Joseph Lawrence, 315-376-5270
• St. Lawrence County: Stephen Canner, 315-379-9192