Annual Crops for Forage: Legume and Grass Mixtures
Mixtures of annual legume and grass species can produce more forage than either species planted alone and achieve a higher quality than a grass alone. But the cost of seed is relatively high, a factor that should be weighed against the mixture’s production potential and the harvested forage’s value.
An infinite number of annual legume-grass combinations are available to grow as annual forage crops. These mixtures do not yield as much as corn silage, but their production in the spring or summer may fill a niche in a forage system. When selecting a mixture, make sure that it grows and can be harvested when the forage is needed. Double cropping following most of these mixtures is possible.
Mixtures generally are fertilized as a pure small grain because legume nitrogen fixation during the cool weather restricts legume nitrogen contribution to the mixture.
Mixtures are seeded either in spring or in late summer, depending on the mixture’s components. Seeding in a prepared seed-bed with a conventional drill has provided excellent establishment. Broadcast seeding is not recommended. Seeding rate varies with mixtures.
A few annual legume and grass mixtures can be grazed, but most achieve maximum productivity when harvested as silage. Harvesting usually is done when the grass in the mixture is between the boot and early head stages. Delays in harvesting reduce forage quality and offer limited increases in yield.