Romulo Lollato with Wheat Variety Options for Grazing

(Dr. Romulo Lollato) Whenever we talk about the variety selection for dual purpose, I feel the things we need to consider in addition to grain yield will be, first of all, it’s forage yield. The varieties that have different forage yield potential, that is highly related with their tillering ability, and definitely that’s one of the considerations. Although it might not be the most important consideration, if we’re going at a dual-purpose situation. The reason I say that is because nowadays many of the varieties, they have at least a fair forage yield potential. That will be much more dependent on the weather conditions. If it’s a warm fall with plenty of moisture most varieties will be good forage producers in fact. But there are differences so producers have this option to compare the different varieties with publications that we have at K-State. Now, other factors that producers should consider when they are selecting a variety for dual-purpose production is also the date of first hollow stem. That’s important because the first hollow stem is when that growing point is about half an inch above that crown, when it’s going up the shoot during the spring. That’s the optimal time to remove cattle from the wheat pasture. If we’re grazing past first hollow stem, we’re looking at anywhere from about one to five percent yield loss per day. If we have a couple of weeks grazing past first hollow stem, we may be looking at 50% yield loss or more. It’s very important to remove cattle at first hollow stem. If we have a variety that has a relatively late first hollow stem, it might not be the best forage yielding variety, but it gives maybe a few more weeks to graze during the spring. If producers are going for grain after grazing, they also need to look at the varieties’ recovery potential from grazing. We’re imposing that stress to the wheat crop, we’re removing leaf area, and we are removing tillers so different varieties will respond differently to that stress. Some varieties that do not have a good spring tillering potential might not do very well in those situations. You might need to look at something that has a good– some varieties have a good spring tillering potential to really recover from that stress that we’re providing with the grazing. It’s very challenging, but at the same time gives the producer that flexibility of deciding to just graze out if prices are conductive to that or go for grain.

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