Northern New York Agricultural Development Program Press Releases

May 4, 2006

Contact: Dr. Jerry Cherney, Cornell University, 607-255-0945

�World�s Largest Trial� Evaluating Perennial Grasses as Dairy Crop in NNY

As homeowners prepare to mow lawns once again, North Country farmers are hoping their grass grows and grows and grows into prime cattle feed. Perennial grasses by their natural recurrence year after year save farmers the need and the cost to replant seed each year. With a Northern New York Agricultural Development Program grant, researchers from Cornell University are evaluating grasses in what may be the world�s largest tall fescue trial. The 2006 field trials at the Extension Learning Farm in Canton and at the Cornell plots at the W.H. Miner Agricultural Institute in Chazy involve five replicates and at least three harvests of 47 varieties of perennial grass.

�Most cropland in Northern New York is better suited to perennial grass production than to legumes and row crops. Regional soil and climate strongly influence variety persistence and performance. We need a method for evaluating yield and quality among the many varieties. This project will provide that evaluation,� says Dr. Jerry Cherney, New York State Forage Specialist.

Cherney leads the grass variety trial research and is considered a leading authority on grass production in the U.S.

In past research in the NNY region, tall fescue often ranked the highest for yield among grass species that grow well in cooler climates. New varieties of tall fescue recently released for use in the Northeast have improved palatability and yield. For the 2006 trials, two other species of grass have been planted as a measurement standard for comparing yield and quality of the new varieties.

Field Crops Educator Peter Barney of Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County says these grass trials are important to Northern New York dairy farmers because �We are always looking to give farmers more options. We know we can grow tall fescue. We know dairy cows will eat tall fescue. We need to add to our information on which varieties will establish the easiest in our soil conditions, will withstand adverse weather conditions, and will yield relatively high tonnages of dry matter per acre of quality forage for milk cows.�

The farm crew of the Cornell E.V. Baker Research Farm at Willsboro seeded the tall fescue trials at the Cornell plots at W.H. Miner Agricultural Institute in Chazy two years ago. Baker Farm Manager Michael Davis says the trials are producing data that will be valuable to regional farmers as they begin planting tall fescue on their farms.

�Tall fescue is an incredibly productive grass crop. The first year trials� three harvests have produced data on heading (optimum harvest) dates and the fiber, crude protein and other feed value indicators,� Davis says. �We are also closely watching the leaf structure and texture for how it will affect the palatability for dairy cows.�

Cherney with Debbie J. R. Cherney, a Cornell University Animal Science professor, has tested tall fescue in dairy cow rations compared to alfalfa and other grasses. He says no problems with palatability were observed in any of the three dairy feeding trials they conducted. Cherney adds that, when dairy rations are balanced, feeding tall fescue silage can produce as much milk per cow as alfalfa silage.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is a farmer-driven research and education program specific to New York state�s six northernmost counties (Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, Essex). For more information, visit www.nnyagdev.org or contact Board Chairs Jon Greenwood, Canton, 315-386-3231, or Joe Giroux, Plattsburgh, 518-563-7523, or call Dave Smith at Cornell University at 607-255-7286.