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Early productivity and crude protein content of establishing forage swards composed of combinations of native grass and legume species in mixed-grassland ecoregions.

Mischkolz, J. M., M. P. Schellenberg and E. G. Lamb. 2013. Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 93(3), 445-454. doi: 10.4141/cjps2012-261


We evaluated the early establishment productivity of forage swards of native, perennial, cool and warm season grasses, and legumes as they have the potential to provide non-invasive, productive, and drought resistant rangelands. Seven species with agronomic potential and a broad native geographic distribution were selected for testing including: nodding brome [Bromus anomalus (Coult.)], blue bunch wheatgrass [Pseudoregneria spicata (Pursh)], western wheatgrass [Pascopyrum smithii (Rydb.)], side oats grama [Bouteloua curtipendula (Michx.)], little blue stem [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.)], purple prairie clover [Dalea purpurea (Vent.)], and white prairie clover [Dalea candida (Willd.)]. Forage swards, including all seven monocultures, 21 two-species mixtures and a mixture with all species, were planted in two sites, Saskatoon and Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Western wheatgrass (WWG) had the highest overall plant density and the strongest effect on the forage yield of the forage swards; however, productivity and crude protein content were not reduced when other species were also included in the forage sward. Dalea spp. did not establish as well as the other species, but had the highest crude protein concentrations. This work provides insight into forage sward development at the establishment stage; additional work is required to determine long-term species impacts for well established forage swards.

Key Words

Forage sward, forage yield, functional groups, grass-legume mixture, mixed-grass prairie, native rangeland