Due to being energy dense feed, high yielding and palatable, corn is an excellent forage crop. Corn is also capable of utilizing large amounts of nutrients from soils receiving frequent manure applications, and grow well even in areas that may cause problems for cereal crops. However, intensive management, sufficient soil fertility, adequate water and sufficient heat must be available for a successful corn crop.
Sunflower is one of the few crop species that originated in North America. Records indicate that the western Native Americans domesticated the crop as early as 1000 BC. Its strong taproot and phototropic broadleaves allows the plant to increase light interception, photosynthesis, and resource use from soil. Although typically harvested for its seed, sunflower can also be used as a silage crop when seed crop is not possible due to early frost or other reasons. Earlier research has indicated that sunflower yields are generally less than corn but the nutritional quality is often higher.
The Peace River region of Alberta offers most challenging conditions for canola stand establishment in Western Canada. Only 20 to 40% of B. rapa (polish canola) and 25 to 30% of B. napus (Argentine canola) seeds can be expected to produce plants in the Peace region compared to 40 to 60% in most areas of western Canada (Canola Growers Manual). Low organic matter soils of the Peace region are prone to crusting and short growing season forces producers to seed canola in cold soils. Therefore, this area offers ideal conditions for assessing the effects of differences in seed quality on the establishment and yield of canola under field conditions.
Seeding two crops together (intercropping) that can utilize soil resources and sunlight during different parts of the growing season may improve forage production in terms of yield, quality and, and utilization. When grown together, the spring cereal can be cut for silage, usually shortly after heading (about 65% moisture), and the winter cereal may grow quickly in the absence of competition from the spring cereal for grazing later in the fall. The silage crops may suffer some yield loss but the silage and pasture yields may add up to produce more forage per acre than either one grown separately. The cereal combinations that can be useful for such purposes in the Peace region include spring seeding of spring barley or spring triticale intercropped with fall rye or winter triticale.
One obstacle to integrating winter cereals into a silage production system in the northern Peace region is the winter survival. Past research done at the AAFC Experimental Farm in Fort Vermilion, AB showed better winter survival from the winter cereals seeded into stubble rather than summer fallow.
On February 21, 2006 the Fort Vermilion division of the North Peace Applied Research Association became officially incorporated as the: MACKENZIE APPLIED RESEARCH ASSOCIATION Although our name has changed, we will continue to work with producers, research groups, funding organizations and industry to provide applied research and extension to the Municipal District of Mackenzie #23.