2020 Forage Variety Trials

Tyler Rice, Penn State Extension

Forages are especially important to agriculture in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States as the core component of the diet of Dairy and Beef Cattle as well as Small ruminants, Horses, and other livestock. As such, Forages make up a critical piece in our commonwealth’s agricultural economy.

Likewise, the species and cultivars of forages you use on your farm can ultimately determine the sustaining profitability of your own operation. The first thing a forage producer might do is decide which forage species they are most likely to use. This decision will be based on farm capabilities, animals being fed, farm equipment accessibility, and other factors related to what the producer feels will yield the best outcome for the farm. After selecting the correct species the next decision the producer will make is to select a forage variety.

A variety trial, by definition, is an experiment where we sample many different varieties of the same species and test their performance under relatively equal growing conditions. Trials conducted by the Forage Variety Evaluation Program are located at two of Penn State’s agricultural experiment stations. These trials can be found at the Russell Larson station in Centre County and the Southeast Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Lancaster County.

Varietal performance data collected in 2020 is subject to the following:

  • 8 total established alfalfa trials, 4 at the Rock Springs site and 4 at the Landisville site representing establishment years 2016 – 2019
  • A perennial clover trial
  • A cool-season perennial (forage) grass trial
  • An annual short-lived cover crop and winter forage trial seeded in the Fall
  • Spring planted cereals for forage trials
  • Warm-season annual forage data featuring forage sorghum and sorghum x sudangrass hybrids.

To access the most recent forage variety trial data please go to the Penn State Forage Variety Trial website .

  1. When you land on this page click on the link to the pdf: 2020 Forage Variety Trials Report.
  2. In the report, you will find a brief description of what the weather conditions were like and the degree of pest pressure along with detail of how each type of trial was conducted.
  3. When you are ready to use the data to help you determine which variety suits you best be sure to pay attention to the variety name, the timing of the first and subsequent harvests if available, mean yield the variety produced and attached forage quality information. This data will help you gather a better picture of how any particular variety is performing given the circumstances.
  4. It is important to note that some varieties listed in the report may not be available because they are not currently marketed in Pennsylvania or they are experimental varieties.
  5. Finally, it is best to evaluate the long-term performance of varieties as well as the performance of the same varieties over multiple trials and trial years in the locations nearest to you.

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