Farmers can consider seeding an annual forage crop after their winter wheat, says a Purdue Extension forage specialist.
In Indiana, farmers typically seed a late crop of soybean after harvesting winter wheat, but sometimes, especially in the northern part of the state, the growing season is not long enough to accommodate both crops, Keith Johnson
said. Carefully selected forage crops, which can be used for silage, hay and livestock grazing, are able to produce vegetative growth for harvest before the growing season ends.
"Seeding soybean can be risky because sometimes the first hard freeze comes sooner than expected and beans are left green in the pods," Johnson said. "There's a lot of growing season left after wheat harvest, so growers can put in an annual forage crop."
For growers looking to produce silage crops, he recommended brown midrib sorghum sudangrass and pearl millet.
Forage crops that can be seeded after wheat and able to be cut and dried as hay include teff and foxtail millet. Teff may allow for two good cuttings before frost, whereas foxtail millet will likely provide one major harvest.
Grazing crops for livestock can provide feed further into the fall, although farmers would need to consider the cost of fencing the field. Turnip and oat work well for grazing. Spring oat is a versatile crop that can be used for hay, silage or grazing.
"Farmers should decide which crop to select based on their needs, but it's important to use the remainder of the growing season to produce something," Johnson said. "With increasing land prices, doublecropping forage crops is a way to increase efficiency in areas where there is a need for ruminant livestock and equine feed."
He said forage crops also may provide for unique business partnerships between wheat growers and livestock producers.
"Confined feeding operations often need a place to deposit manure mid-season, and the harvested wheat crop land can provide that," he said. "In return, farmers can have an outlet for late-season hay and silage."
The forage crops mentioned above are killed by winter temperatures, so there is no concern that they will inhibit planting of future crops.
"With any forage crop you have to know what you are getting," Johnson said. "It's essential that you purchase from a knowledgeable seedsman."
Johnson and Purdue agronomy graduate student John McMillan also are investigating grain amaranth as a potential post-wheat silage crop. Their research is in the preliminary stages but has so far shown that grain amaranth may be a forage crop well-suited for livestock feed.