Meadow-Pasture Fodder Production Demands Innovative Approaches

Traditional approaches to the development of fodder production have largely exhausted their potential. Today there is an urgent need for new ways to ensure a considerable improvement of the pasture performance and feeding quality.

By Roman RATNIKOV













 

The development of Russian livestock farming has ceased to be a subtle positive trend and turned into a stable growth tendency. To a large extent this has happened due to an increase in demand and rocketing food prices. However, Russian farm breeders still face a number of serious problems. Apart from the issues related to the construction of new cattle housing facilities and acquisition of highly productive livestock, the farmers are concerned about the shortage of coarse fodder.

This problem is especially acute in the Non-Black Earth Zone of European Russia. Because of the harsh climatic conditions, the farmers cannot follow the example of their colleagues from Western Europe and Southern Russia, where maize is the basic component of cattle fodder. Therefore, the largest share of fodder in the Non-Black Earth Zone regions falls on the meadow-pasture fodder production. In this connection, it has to be said that meadow-pastures are not used to their full potential. For the most part, forage lands are represented by natural hay-fields and pastures. Their performance and feeding quality largely depend on weather conditions and so are subject to abrupt swings. As for cultivated hay-fields and pastures, they are traditionally planted with one or two-variety grass mixtures, which quickly undergo degradation.

Research results from leading Russian and European agricultural research establishments show that the highest performance and quality are achieved on meadows and pastures planted with grass mixtures, which include up to ten different specially selected components. The grass mixture composition depends on the interspecies competition and dependency. The stability of the plant community is determined by its species saturation, in other words, it is determined by the combination of species, which ensures biological balance. Modern approaches to meadow management are based on the use of multi-component grass mixtures composed in compliance with the key component selection principles: morphological compatibility, adequacy with regard to soil, hydrological and light conditions, rate of growth, repeated-mowing potential and longevity.

Joint scientific research carried out by EkoNiva Group and one of the leading German plant breeding companies, DSV, in Moscow Region, Tula Region, Smolensk Region and some other Russian regions proved the high potential of multi-component grass mixtures. Alongside traditional meadow-pasture grass, DSV grass mixtures contain less frequent species: common ryegrass of varying morphological types, ripeness and ploidy groups; hybrid ryegrass, annual ryegrass and Persian clover.

Currently, annual grass mixtures, which consist of two or three ryegrass varieties with an optional addition of Persian clover, provoke a lot of interest. A successful if short experience of growing such grass mixtures in Moscow, Smolensk, and Kaluga regions testifies to their high potential for regional fodder production.