Warm-season grasses (WSG) incorporated into traditional cool-season rotational grazing systems to increase summer yields are typically established in monoculture in separate pasture areas. Few studies have evaluated alternative interseeded establishment of WSG, despite potential benefits for improving biodiversity and land-use efficiency. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of establishment method (monoculture vs. interseeded) on crabgrass pasture forage yield, nutritive value, and preference under equine grazing. Three adult standardbred mares grazed two main plots on two consecutive days (8 hr/d) for three grazing events in 2019: Jul 28/29 (GRAZE 1), Aug 20/30 (GRAZE 2), Oct 1/2 (GRAZE 3). Each main plot contained four replicates of three treatments: mixed cool-season grass (CSG); Quick-N-Big crabgrass (CRB) [Digitaria sanguinalis (L.) Scop.] interseeded into existing cool-season grass (INT), and CRB established as a monoculture (MON). The cool-season grass mix included Inavale orchardgrass [Dactylis glomerata (L.)], Tower tall fescue [Lolium arundinaceum (Schreb.) Darbysh.], and Argyle Kentucky bluegrass [Poa pratensis (L.)]. Herbage mass (HM) and sward height (SH) were measured prior to each grazing event and samples were collected (0800-1000 h) for chemical composition analysis. Observed grazing time (GT) in each sub-plot as determined by 5-min scan sampling was utilized as marker of horse preference. Forage HM was greater in MON (8043 ± 1220 kg/ha) than CSG (5001 ± 1308 kg/ha; P = 0.003), with a trend for greater total HM in MON vs. INT (6582 ± 1220 kg/ha: P = 0.06), but HM did not differ between INT and CSG. The SH was also greatest for MON (28 ± 1.11; INT: 23.6 ± 1.11; CSG: 19.7 ± 1.37 cm; P < 0.003). Forage nutrients (digestible energy and crude protein) were largely similar across treatments and met requirements of horses at maintenance. Horse GT was lower in MON (22.6 ± 3.77 min/sub-plot) than in INT (31.9 ± 3.79 min/sub-plot; P = 0.003) and there was a trend for lower GT in MON vs. CSG (29.9 ± 4.17 min/sub-plot: P = 0.07). These results indicate interseeding CRB would not effectively increase yields of traditional cool-season grass equine rotational grazing systems and would not supply similar levels of summer forage provided by monoculture establishment. Results of this study also suggest horses may prefer cool-season grass pasture forage over warm-season crabgrass.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology
- summer slump
- warm-season grass