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University of Minnesota Extension

Emergency forages: Warm-season grasses

When hay prices and demand for forages are high, there’s incentive to increase forage system productivity, especially for alfalfa.

Semi-dormant alfalfa varieties have been heavily promoted and widely adopted, as part of an effort to maximize forage production during the upper Midwest’s relatively short growing season.

However, this can increase the chance of winter injury and winterkill. For example, during the 2012-2013 winter, significant acres of alfalfa in Minnesota experienced winter injury and winterkill.

Research: Alternative forages after alfalfa winterkill

In years when alfalfa is injured by the winter and cool, wet springs persist, options to replant both annual row crops and forages can become more limited.

Warm-season grasses could provide an alternative emergency forage during such years. Because many warm-season grass species require warmer soils for germination, planting as late as July can provide forage during a reduced growing season.


Weed management challenges

Field observations in Waseca indicate intensive weed management may be critical to stand establishment (Photo 2).


This emergency no-till forage research has been continuing with the goal of developing tools for producers faced with extreme winterkill in alfalfa or prevented planting.

Weed pressure after simulated alfalfa winterkill via glyphosate
Photo 2: Weed pressure after simulated alfalfa winterkill via glyphosate.

Reagan Noland, graduate student, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS); Craig Sheaffer, agronomist, CFANS and M. Scott Wells, Extension agronomist

Reviewed in 2018

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