Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality
RESEARCH ARTICLE

An initial investigation of forage production and feed quality of perennial wheat derivatives

Matthew T. Newell A C and Richard C. Hayes B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A NSW Department of Primary Industries, Agricultural Research and Advisory Station, Binni Creek Road, Cowra, NSW 2794, Australia.

B NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, PMB, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: matt.newell@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Crop and Pasture Science 68(12) 1141-1148 https://doi.org/10.1071/CP16405
Submitted: 26 October 2016  Accepted: 29 March 2017   Published: 19 June 2017

Abstract

Perennial cereals may offer a novel forage source in mixed farming enterprises while improving the sustainability of grain farming. There has been limited analysis of the quality of this forage type and its likely value to mixed grazing/cropping farming systems. This study evaluated the biomass and grain production of four wheat × wheatgrass hybrid experimental lines under four simulated grazing regimes; nil defoliation (grain only; D0), defoliate once (D1), defoliate twice (D2) and defoliate twice followed by a simulated hay cut (D3), and compared performance to a winter wheat, Wedgetail, and the perennial grass Thinopyrum intermedium. Early biomass production of the perennial entries was significantly less than Wedgetail (P = 0.01). Grain yield from Wedgetail was generally higher (P < 0.001) than all other lines. As defoliation frequency increased, the comparative difference in grain yield between Wedgetail and the hybrid entries decreased, with lines OK7211542 and 11955 exceeding the grain yield of Wedgetail in the D3 treatment. Cumulative annual biomass production of the hybrid lines exceeded that of Wedgetail, though the seasonal production differed markedly. Generally there was limited decline in perennial plant population between April and December in both years of the experiment. Defoliation had little impact on perennial plant survival; however, none of the hybrids could sustain a significant plant population beyond the second summer of the experiment. Yield declines of the hybrid entries was due to increasing plant mortality, rather than a predisposed yield limitation of the germplasm, as all hybrid entries either maintained or increased their grain yield on a per plant basis. In contrast, the perennial grass maintained a constant population for the duration of the experiment. Dry matter digestibility and energy content of all forages tested were high, averaging 80.2% and 13.3 MJ ME/kg DM, respectively. Crude protein was higher (P < 0.001) in Th. intermedium and the hybrid entries with 62% and 25% more crude protein than Wedgetail, respectively. All cereals had very high potassium : sodium and low calcium : phosphorus ratios, which indicated the need to provide mineral supplements to grazing animals to maintain growth rates and manage animal health disorders, similar to conventional grazing cereals. This paper discusses the role perennial cereals could play in a sustainable expansion of the cropping zone in south-eastern Australia.

Additional keywords: biomass, forage quality, mineral content, Triticeae hybrids, Thinopyrum spp.


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