Forage soybeans as an alternative forage crop

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Cool-season forage crop failure resulting from winterkill, poor establishment, or severe drought can cause feed shortage. A summer annual forage such as forage soybean can play an important role in compensating feed shortage as an emergency forage crop. It can also be grown annually for forage. Forage soybean can be doublecropped after wheat harvest when moisture is sufficient.

In the late 1990’s, three varieties (Derry, Donegal, and Tyrone) of forage soybean were developed and released by the USDA-ARS in Maryland. Also, there are Roundup Ready forage soybean varieties (such as Large Lad, Big Fellow, Game Keeper, and Habitat Haven) on the market.

If forage soybean is properly planted and harvested at optimum stage of maturity, this crop may produce high quality forage comparable in quality to alfalfa. Following are the characteristics and planting tips of forage soybeans.

Uses: Fresh-chopped, silage, wildlife food plot

Height: Forage soybean is much taller than traditional soybean; it can be as tall as 30 to 50 inches.

Seeding rate: 50 lbs per acre (equivalent to 155,000 seeds per acre)

Seeding date: Mid to late May

Harvesting time: When forage soybean reaches between 28 to 36 inches

Yield potential: 3.0 to 4.0 tons dry matter per acre

Forage quality: CP, 14-19 %; ADF, 30-50 %; NDF, 40-60 %; Digestibility: 60-70 %


Figure 1. Forage soybean. (Photo taken by Doo-Hong Min, K-State Research and Extension)


Doo-Hong Min, Southwest Area Crops and Soils Specialist

John Holman, Cropping Systems Agronomist, Southwest Research-Extension Center