Forage options following irrigated wheat
Wheat harvest in the Panhandle is about to get under way and due to the extreme drought conditions in states to the south of Nebraska it appears there will be quite a bit of demand for hay and forage this fall and winter. This may lead many producers to consider what annual forages could be planted into irrigated wheat stubble in late July and August.
Summer annual forages such as sudan grass, sorghum x sudan hybrids, pearl millet, foxtail millet and teff are all options for producing additional forage. Determining the best option for each operation will depend on water availability, individual goals, available harvesting equipment and when forage is needed.
Foxtail millet and teff would be an excellent choice for one cutting of hay or for windrow grazing. A sorghum x sudan hybrid would be the first choice for a crop to chop as silage, while pearl millet and low-prussic-acid varieties of sudan grass would be good choices for grazing.
A NebGuide entitled Annual Forages for the Nebraska Panhandle is an excellent resource outlining the advantages and disadvantages of different annual forages. It is available online or from your local Extension office.
The critical thing to consider about summer annual forages is the remaining length of the growing season. Long-range forecasts from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center are available for producers to consider as they make decisions about which forage to plant. So far this spring and summer, we have been in a cooler and wetter than average weather pattern.
Summer annual forages should be planted by July 20. After this date, oats might be a good choice instead of summer annuals. Oats can accumulate approximately two tons of forage per acre when planted in early to mid-August. Oats are somewhat cold tolerant and can withstand light frosts and temperatures down into the upper 20s before growth ceases.
If you are looking for grazing for this fall, winter and for next spring, planting a combination of oats/turnips and triticale or rye could be a good option as well. The oats and turnips will winter kill while the triticale or rye will over winter and be available as a forage source next spring.
With the expected high demand for feed this year, planting annual forages into irrigated wheat stubble may be a good option.