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Selecting Forage Species

Selecting Forage Species

Forage Grass and legume performance varies depending on environmental conditions. No single forage type or variety is best in all environments. The adaptation of a species, or its potential longevity in the field, is determined greatly by genetic cold-hardiness traits, and its tolerance of other site, soil, and use conditions.

When selecting a forage species, or several species for use in a seed mixture, first consider their appropriateness for the intended use (pasture, hay, etc.) and for the expected longevity on the site.

Among the other factors the affect the suitability of a forage species are:

·         drought tolerance

·         soil pH level

·         fertilizer nutrient requirements

·         soil drainage

·         intensity

·         harvest or grazing

Mixtures of legumes and grasses often give the best overall performance for pasture and multi-use hay/pasture meadows. Yields tend to be greater with mixtures than with either a grass or legume alone. Mixtures of two or three well-chosen legumes or grasses are usually more desirable than mixtures that include five or six. Each selected grass and legume in the mixture should have a specific purpose. 

A good variety should: be a top yielder, have sufficient winter-hardiness for your location, and be resistant to the array of plant diseases present in your fields. Only a few states provide University Variety trial information for forage varieties. Use information from locations most similar to those of the conditions in which you are growing your crops.

USE GOOD SEEDING MANAGEMENT                                                                                          

Top yields are possible only with thick, vigorous, well-manages stands. Careful attention to seeding practices and seeding year management often makes the difference between profitable, productive stands and failures.

Please open the PDF version of this fact sheet to view accompanying tables and formulas. 


This factsheet was adapted from the Iowa State University Extension program.