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Mixtures of native perennial forage species produce higher yields than monocultures in a long-term study

Serajchi, Mostafa, Schellenberg, Michael P., Mischkolz, Jenalee M., Lamb, Eric G.
Canadian journal of plant science 2017 v.98 no.3 pp. 633-647
C3 plants, C4 plants, Dalea, Pascopyrum smithii, Pseudoroegneria spicata, Schizachyrium scoparium, acid detergent fiber, calcium, climate, copper, crude protein, field experimentation, forage, forage yield, grasses, indigenous species, legumes, neutral detergent fiber, pastures, perennials, phosphorus, research and development, Saskatchewan
To evaluate the forage yield and quality of seven perennial native species in monoculture and binary mixtures under a range of climate conditions, a 6-yr field experiment was conducted at the Swift Current Research and Development Centre (SCRDC), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), in Swift Current, SK. Seven native perennial forage species from three functional groups (C₃, C₄ grasses, and legumes) were seeded in 2010 in monocultures and binary mixtures. Forage yield and quality [crude protein, acid detergent fiber (ADF), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), phosphorus (P), calcium (Ca), and copper (Cu)] were measured during the first week of July and last week of August in 2011–2016. Mixtures that included western wheatgrass [Pascopyrum smithii (Rydb.) Löve] (WWG) tended to produce a greater yield when 90% of the composition within these mixtures was WWG. Adding bluebunch wheatgrass [Pseudoroegneria spicata (Pursh) Löve] (BBW), little blue stem [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash] (LBS), and prairie clovers (Dalea spp.) to the binary mixtures can increase the positive aspects of species diversity on stability and productivity in seeded pastures. Among the grasses, WWG contained higher crude protein and lower ADF and NDF concentration. Mixtures of forage species produced higher forage yield compared with monocultures. Native forage species can produce stable forage yield across very different climate situations. In mixtures, WWG showed promising results in forage productivity and quality and can be a suitable option for seeded pastures.