Growing Cereals for Livestock Rations

Mar 18, 2021
Cereals can be used instead of corn as an energy source in livestock rations, and this substitution can help disrupt corn rootworm life cycles in the field. When growing cereals for feed the key areas to focus on include variety selection, establishment, fertility and disease management.
Winter Cereals
Growing a great cereal crop starts with selecting a variety that is best suited to your operation. A number of factors should be considered when choosing a variety including: the farm location, winter survival, insect and disease resistance, lodging potential and yield. Utilize the Ontario cereals performance trial data on and select varieties that perform well in your area across a number of sites and years.
Winter cereals are very responsive to planting date. If winter wheat or winter barley is planted late and if conditions are not fit, there is a greater risk of winter survival issues. To determine the optimum planting date for your region, Ontario’s Optimum Winter Wheat Planting Date map is a great resource.
While this map can be a helpful tool, it is a guideline; planting into good conditions has a big impact on establishment success. If the conditions aren’t right and waiting a day or two beyond the optimum date means better planting conditions, then wait.
Timely planting is even more important for winter barley. Winter barley should be seeded at least 7-10 days prior to the optimum winter wheat seeding date for your region. Winter barley is not recommended for northern Ontario due to winter survival challenges.
Planting winter wheat too early increases the risk of snow mould, lodging and Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV). It is generally not recommended to seed more than 10-14 days prior to the optimum date for your region. When seeding at the optimum time for your region, target a seeding rate of 1.4 to 1.6 million seeds/acre. On heavier clay soils higher seeding rates may be necessary. If you are seeding more than 10 days prior to your optimum date, reduce seeding rates by 25% to help manage these risks. If you are planting later than the optimum date, the seeding rate should be increased by 200,000 seeds/acre per week to a maximum of 2.2 million seeds/acre to compensate for the delayed planting.
Seeding depth and a starter fertilizer containing phosphorus are also significant factors. Winter cereals should be seeded at a depth of 1 inch; however, this can often be difficult due to the lack of accuracy of drills. Therefore, target 1.25-1.5 inches to ensure you are seeding your crop deep enough. Shallow seeding can result in plants being more prone to winterkill and heaving.
A seed-placed starter fertilizer containing phosphorus should also be used to provide nutrients for early growth and promote root development. This improves winter survival and crop uniformity. Seed-placed starter fertilizer has been shown to increase yields, on average, by 7.5 bushels per acre. In long-term trials, the response to seed-placed phosphorus on low testing soils has been 12 bu/ac and on high testing soils 3-4 bu/ac. For fertility guidelines, see Chapter 4 of OMAFRA Publication 811: Agronomy Guide for Field Crops. Where available and conditions permit, apply manure ahead of seeding. Remember to account for nutrients from manure when calculating fertility requirements.
Nitrogen rates can be pushed to 120-150 lbs/ac total for soft red winter wheat when a fungicide is used. If no fungicide application is planned, rates should not exceed 90-100 lbs/ac to manage disease and lodging risk. The most important cereal disease to watch for is fusarium head blight (FHB), which can cause DON (vomitoxin). Choose varieties with tolerance to FHB. A fungicide can be applied when head emergence is complete (called T3 timing) to further protect the crop.
Spring Cereals
Spring barley can be sown as soon as soil conditions are fit to carry equipment in the spring. Where conditions permit, frost seeding spring barley is a great way to plant early. An early-planted crop helps avoid the hot, dry conditions that can occur later in the growing season and impact pollination and grain fill. The target date for planting spring cereals is April 10 for southwestern Ontario, April 15 for central and eastern Ontario and May 10 for northern Ontario. In areas of greater than 3,100 CHUs, spring cereals are generally not recommended and should not be grown if planting is delayed beyond April 20.
Barley should be seeded at a rate of 1.0 to 1.4 million seeds/acre at a 1″ depth. For starter fertility guidelines, see Chapter 4 of OMAFRA Publication 811: Agronomy Guide for Field Crops. When barley is grown in areas that receive more than 2800 CHUs, apply 45-60 kg/ha (40-54 lbs/acre) nitrogen; in areas that receive less than 2800 CHUs, apply 70-90 kg/ha (63-81 lbs/acre) nitrogen. Alternatively, soil nitrate-nitrogen tests can be used to fine-tune the nitrogen rate applied to spring barley.
Like winter wheat, fusarium head blight can be a challenge in spring barley. Selecting varieties that are more tolerant to this disease, timely scouting and harvest can help reduce the risk.
Source : Field Crop News
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