BMR for grazing or greenleaf silage
Cool season grasses are high quality and yield well – in cool weather. Unfortunately in most of the U S, cool weather is followed by hot weather during which growth of the cool season grass slows or ceases. The way this has been dealt with is to stockpile the cool season grass, move cattle to warm season pastures or feed stored forages. Another way is to plant annual warm season grasses. A BMR mutant (not a GMO) was found to have less lignin in the corn plant. Lignin, however, is also part of the important structural components of plants which is extremely important to prevent lodging in grain production. But for silage and grazing the reduction in BMR stand-ability is not as important.
BMR has now been found in the sorghums and pearl millet and is used by many farmers as grazing, silage or even hay. Corn BMR hybrid seed is expensive because it is a hybrid and does not stand well for seed production. Sorghums and pearl millet regrow after cutting and can be very useful for some full season uses. Open pollinated or synthetic BMR corn varieties have been developed that are inexpensive. Since they do not recover well or at all after harvest, it is usually a one cut crop, but because it grows so fast it can be used after many cereal grain crops. In most of the U S, it often can be planted as late as August 15 and still make tassel, although, like all grass, quality is highest prior to tassel.
Where greenleaf corn can be used
As a single harvest crop that produces a high tonnage of quality forage, it usually works best as a second crop after the main (usually cool season) crop. Besides following small grains, it could be used after early vegetable crops such as peas, green beans and others; or sacrificing final year last cut perennial forages for the high yield of greenleaf corn. It could even fit in after a cool season annual forage, although usually there is sufficient time for grain corn silage. Corn has a little better growth than sorghum or sudans in the fall and also there is no fear of prussic acid. This can be very valuable for cattle late fall grazing operations and can reduce the need for winter stored forage.
No special equipment needed
Plant with a drill, harvest with cattle or rotary swather/conditioner. Or lacking necessary equipment, custom chopping and bale wrapping is getting popular.
Weeds and insects
Besides the value of basically free land, late planted corn comes up so fast and is so competitive, herbicides are unnecessary. Also it is totally out of sync with traditional corn insects and since summer corn seedings germinate and come up so fast, seed treatments are unnecessary.
Since corn has a coarse stalk, it is difficult or impossible to dry down for hay. As greenleaf corn silage, it can be stored in bunkers, towers, tubes or in recent years bale wrapping is catching on. Bunker silos, because of spoilage, works only for large operations. Towers require large initial investment, but would work well for smaller dairy farms converting to beef. Tubes and wrapping have very low initial investment. Wrapping often results in the highest quality feed, especially for smaller operations, as only a single bale is exposed to air at any time. Plastic tubes and wrapping are usually custom operations. Farms finishing beef on grass could find bale wrapped BMR crop useful. Reports of over three pound average daily gains have been reported, sufficient to produce well-marbled beef. Remember BMR corn cut early can have digestibility close to corn grain, but with higher protein.
Cover crops have been getting a lot of attention recently. Besides reducing soil erosion, they can take up excess fertilizer necessary for the good yields of the primary crop, reducing contamination of aquifers and rivers. They can even be helpful in soil moisture management. Remember although 2/3 of the high corn greenleaf yields are above ground, 1/3 or more is below ground and will aid in preservation and release of nutrients for the following years crop. Harvesting, even after frost can usually leave sufficient time to plant a cool season cover crop.
Greenleaf Seed Corn
Greenleaf refers to a crop that is harvested before grain is produced. Corn is known as a grain and silage crop and generally not thought of as a forage crop prior to grain fill. Corn is a grass and like bamboo given heat and adequate moisture grows very fast.
BMR84 is a synthetic Brown MibRib corn variety which means it is lower in lignin and therefore higher quality. Because it is lower in lignin, it does not stand well at maturity, but does produce a good seed crop. Page seed Corn LLC has figured out how to harvest the crop which is why it can be offered at a reasonable price to you. This is especially important because to get high greenleaf yields, it must be drilled in at 50 pounds (usually over 90,000 seeds) or more per acre.
It will grow to tassel in 35 -40 days with optimum temperature and moisture and reach heights of 7 to 8 feet with yields of 3 to 4 ton or more dry matter (0% moisture basis) per acre. Planting by August 1 will usually get it to tassel in central MN and with moisture will usually be worth planting as late as August 15 in most of the U S. Corn will qualify as grass fed up to blister stage, although we recommend earlier harvesting for the highest quality.
Dairy farms are getting big making for more difficult competition for the smaller operators. Some of the dairy operation are going organic or “grass fed’ to increase income. Grazing can be difficult with our hot summers and cold winters. Recent advancements in low lignin warm season BMR (Brown MidRib) sorghums and corn can be very helpful. However these coarse stemmed species are virtually impossible to dry as hay.
Another recent development in grass silage storage are wrapped bales, particularly the wrapped square bales that can be packed tighter than round bales for better preservation. Individually wrapped bales result in less spoilage in feeding operations.
Some of the smaller dairy operation are converting to beef and already have silo storage. BMR annuals can be very useful here as well in that yields are high and large quantities can be ready to preserve in the same way as grain corn silage.
Many of these small dairies are located on land where erosion and field size limits their value for cash crop production. Most of these farms have small areas where erosion is not a problem, but difficult to make cash cropping possible, yet animals could harvest and fertilize. Cool season annuals in combination with warm season BMR crops can produce very high yields.
Other ways these BMR annuals can offer flexibility are the many crops they can be seeded after, such as small grains in much of the U S or after peas and other early vegetable crops. Some of these BMR annuals need only 5 or 6 weeks of moisture and hot weather to yield 3 to 4 ton of dry matter. In most of the U S even seeded as late as August 15 can produce high tonnages of high quality forage.