A new tillering forage corn that can produce 5 tons/acre of high-energy, high-protein dry matter in 60 days will “revolutionize the way some forage is grown,” says the president of the company that developed it.
MasterGraze will increase forage yields in double-crop situations and even expand the area where double-cropping is possible, predicts Lyn Crabtree of Masters Choice, Inc., Anna, IL.
The corn's brown midrib (BMR) trait makes it highly digestible, but it also tests up to 20% protein, says Crabtree. Each plant has a main stalk plus several secondary stalks, resulting in higher yields than are possible with any other forage crop, he claims.
“The stalk is even more digestible than the leaves, so it's pretty awesome stuff.”
Masters Choice began marketing the seed last spring after three years of testing in an area ranging from southern Florida to Maine and the Upper Midwest. It'll be tested at several universities next year, he says.
MasterGraze makes a highly palatable short-term pasture crop. But it also works well for silage or baleage production if cut and field-dried to the proper moisture level, he says. The stalks are thick but pliable, so won't poke holes in stretch-wrap plastic.
The plants eventually make small ears, but shouldn't be allowed to grow beyond the vegetative stage.
“We recommend that people cut it about the time it's going to throw a tassel. It's a very digestible brown midrib, so if you let it go reproductive, it'll have a tendency to go down.”
The main stalks won't grow back after they're grazed or cut, but the tillers will, resulting in a second crop yielding about a third as much forage as the first. Crabtree suggests planting it in early spring, harvesting it 60 days later, then no-tilling a summer annual forage into the stubble. The second crop's first-cutting yield will be enhanced by MasterGraze tillers.
In the South, BMR sorghum-sudangrass may be a good second crop. It yields well in multiple cuttings, but Crabtree says the forage corn is higher in quality and more palatable, plus it can be planted earlier.
“So why not get three or four weeks growth on that corn crop, harvest it and then drill in sorghum-sudan at a half rate, since you've got tillers coming back from the corn?”
In the North, MasterGraze could be planted after a cutting of an aging alfalfa stand, or planted in spring, harvested in summer and followed by a late-August alfalfa seeding.
“There are a lot of neat applications for this thing. It really was designed for double-crop situations.”
It does well with any type of tillage, but should be planted alone, and if it's no-tilled into sod, be sure to kill the existing vegetation.
“If you've got a thin stand of something out there in a pasture or hayfield, we don't want you drilling this one in,” says Crabtree. “Corn doesn't like competition.”
Growers usually plant 30,000-40,000 seeds/acre on 15-30” rows. MasterGraze sells for about $105 per 80,000-seed bag. For details, call 866-444-1044 or visit seedcorn.com.