Date of this Version
La Vallie, M.N. (2019). Establishment of Perennial Legumes with an Annual Warm-Season Grass as a Companion Crop (Master's Thesis). The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska.
The yields of perennial forage legumes are often hindered during the establishment year due to slow germination rates and weed competition. This study was conducted to determine if sorghum-sudangrass (Sorghum bicolor x S. bicolor var. sudanese) is a compatible annual companion crop for increased forage production, weed suppression, and legume establishment. In 2016, sorghum-sudangrass was paired with alfalfa (Medicago sativa L. ‘Ranger’), birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.), Illinois bundleflower [Desmanthus illinoensis (Michx.) MacMill. ex B.L. Rob. & Fernald], purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea Vent.), red clover (Trifolium pratense L.), and roundhead lespedeza (Lespedeza capitata Michx.). We studied effects of a sorghum-sudangrass companion crop with a varying number of harvests (three vs. four harvests) collected per plot throughout the summer and compared yields to the yield of a weeded legume treatment, and a non-weeded legume treatment. In 2017, we studied effects of the application of four seeding rates for sorghum-sudangrass at 5 pure live seed per m2 (PLS/m2), 10 PLS/m2, 20 PLS/m2, and 40 PLS/m2 paired with only the alfalfa perennial legume and compared yields to the yield of an oat-alfalfa control treatment, a weeded alfalfa treatment, and a non-weeded alfalfa treatment. Total dry matter yields along with the yield of each legume, weeds, sorghum-sudangrass, and oats (second year only) were collected for each treatment. In both years, we found the addition of sorghum-sudangrass increased overall dry matter yield and significantly decreased weed abundance. The increase in total dry matter yield came at a cost to the legume yield; as treatments planted with sorghum-sudangrass or oats had lower legume/alfalfa yields than weeded legume/alfalfa treatments. These results suggest that sorghum-sudangrass is a viable option for weed suppression but is not ideal as a companion crop with an establishing legume stand for weed control as it decreases the success of legume establishment. These results demonstrate the importance of selecting a companion crop that is compatible with the crop of interest to achieve production goals.
Advisors: John Guretzky and Walter Schacht