All around the world the production of grass is the foundation of the ruminant and equine livestock industries. Western Canada is dependent on about 12 grass species and about five legume species that are used to produce forage for ruminants and horses.
Each plant species has its own unique growth requirements, range of environmental adaptation and production pattern, yet there is a general perception that growing forages is easy (King, 1996).
The method used for establishing perennial forages can make the difference between a long-lived successful stand, and a poor stand requiring re-establishment. A uniform stand with an adequate number of plants is necessary for maximum yield. Use of an appropriate seeding rate at the proper time of year, coupled with suitable fertilization, will maximize the odds for establishment success (Cherney, 1990).
The purpose of our Forage Agronomics & Management Systems guide is to introduce the reader to some of the complexities of growing forages. We highlight the preferred procedures in establishing forages, as well as some tips in managing forage stands to maximize their production throughout their lifespan. Perennial forage crops are important for replenishing organic matter in soils, as about half of it has been lost due to long periods of cultivation. Perennial forage crops can add more organic matter than most annual crops, because they reduce tillage and provide a permanent ground cover, which will also reduce soil erosion.
This guide will help the reader understand why one should use certified seeds and how to make the proper species and variety selections. This is a very important step in any successful forage stand, just as seeding rates, methods, time of seeding, fertility, etc. are important considerations to a successful and productive stand. You as the manager/advisor will have to make informed decisions that will help in each particular situation, as there is not one recommendation that will apply to all situations.