Sask. research farm tackles intercropping

Lana Shaw, the research manager at the South East Research Farm near Redvers, Sask., is performing an oats and perennial ryegrass intercrop trial for the first time.  |  Melissa Bezan photo

This summer’s trial is studying the economic and agronomic benefits of growing perennial ryegrass and oats together

Research at the South East Research Farm near Redvers, Sask., is looking at the effects, both economically and agronomically, of a perennial ryegrass with oats intercrop.

“It’s a simple little seeding trial that would allow people to seed once and harvest at least twice,” said Lana Shaw, South East Research Farm’s research manager. “This perennial ryegrass might survive to produce seed for two years quite nicely.”

Because perennial ryegrass is vegetative its first year, producers may find it difficult to economically justify planting the crop alone.

“Economically, what that does is you have to capture enough value off of the second year seed harvest to pay for your first year establishment and your costs and land and everything,” Shaw said.

Through this intercrop, farmers would be able to harvest something in their first year.

“Farmers would like to be able to have some sort of a grain harvest the first year, establishment year, and then have the seed harvest off the perennial rye grass.”

This comes with challenges. Shaw and researchers at the South East Research Farm have to make sure the oats don’t choke out the ryegrass.

“You have lots of oats planted, have a great oats crop, you might end up with not really an adequate perennial rye grass crop that manages to survive for the second year, so what was the point of seeding a perennial rye grass crop if you’re just going to smother it?” Shaw said.

“So the purpose of the trial was we were having different seeding rates of oats to try to calibrate how much oats is optimal both for the value of the crops in the two years and establishment and whether you have an adequate seed crop the following year.”

The South East Research Farm has run many different experiments, mainly to do with how they seed the oats.

“We’ve put the oats through the side bander or placing them in the same spot with the perennial rye grass and we’re going to see if one of those is preferable,” Shaw said. “Because if we could place the oats deeper into the side of the perennial ryegrass that might be a less competitive situation for the perennial ryegrass than having the oats directly in the same row and competing more and coming up at the same time.”

Shaw said the report is expected to be complete next fall, after they have harvested both the oats this year and the perennial ryegrass next year.

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