Hallmark is widely used for pasture, hay and silage in the cool climate growing areas. This Orchardgrass seed can be mixed with clover for hay production as well as increased forage yield. Hallmark orchard grass is considered a very leafy, early to medium variety with excellent hardiness and persistence. Hallmark was developed in Indiana and released in the early 1970’s, it has been a consistent producer for hay, forage, and silage and is very comparable to Potomac and Sterling orchardgrasses. With a broad area of adaptation, Hallmark orchard grass has performed exceptionally well from the Pacific Northwest through the central plains to the mid Atlantic states. Performing well on soils with moderately poor drainage, Hallmark also exhibits early spring growth and strong growth in the fall. Hallmark orchard grass also combines exceptionally well with legumes, developing a very productive stand for many years and a great pasture grass seed mixture. This variety matures earlier than Potomac.
Drilling orchardgrass and the companion legume seed is preferred. The use of drills, such as the Brillion type or grain drills, will usually result in better stands at the same seeding rate, more controlled seeding depth and better seed distribution than broadcasting. Good results are obtained with grain drills when orchardgrass is put through the grain box and the companion legume is seeded from the small legume box. The legume seed should be allowed to drop straight to the ground to prevent covering too deep. Drag chains on the drill will cover the seed adequately. Pull a cultipacker or light roller over the field to give good seed-to-soil contact and promote more vigorous seedling growth.
Fertilizer and lime
Seedings of orchardgrass can also be made with broadcast equipment such as fertilizer trucks, buggies or tractor-mounted distribution. Broadcast equipment will not throw orchardgrass seed as far as it will throw fertilizer or heavier seeds such as fescue. To help avoid uneven stands, drive the equipment close enough to overlap the previous spread pattern to ensure even seed distribution. Orchardgrass seed should be covered with about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil. Spike tooth harrows or "brush type" drags make good tools for covering broadcast seed. The use of a cultipacker or lightweight roller is very important for the same reasons cited above.
When managed properly, orchardgrass will produce excellent results in pasture programs for dairy and beef. Properly managed orchardgrass plants will have a higher leaf-to-stem ratio than tall fescue. Several research studies have demonstrated higher animal intake and better animal performance from orchardgrass pasture as compared with tall fescue pasture, especially during spring and early summer. During a three-year study in Missouri, yearling steers gained 1.75 pounds per day on orchardgrass pasture, 1.16 pounds on tall fescue and 1.84 pounds on bromegrass. In the study, the carrying capacity of orchardgrass was well above bromegrass and slightly less than fescue. In a similar study involving cow/calf pairs, calves gained 1.80 pounds per day on orchardgrass and 1.51 pounds per day on fescue.
Mixtures of orchardgrass and clover (red or ladino) are very popular for pasture in Missouri. Rotational grazing with heavy stocking rates of cattle will give better animal performance and reduce spot grazing. If plants are continually grazed short, they will be weakened and stands may be depleted. Close grazing can be especially detrimental during hot weather. Heavy grazing of orchardgrass during October can decrease carbohydrate storage and lead to some winter kill of plants. Stands of orchardgrass will often be more persistent when grown with a companion legume.
Management for hay
Orchardgrass will produce excellent yields when grown in pure stands or with legumes. When using pure stands for hay, it is imperative that nitrogen be applied in combination with adequate phosphorous and potassium.
Harvesting the spring growth of orchardgrass at late-boot to early-head stage will produce higher quality forage than allowing the plant to mature further. This early harvest will also help increase yield of high quality re-growth. Forage researchers and several Missouri farmers have observed less damage to plants from summer heat and drought when the first harvest is made early and plants have time to re-grow before the stress. Some south Missouri farmers have reported almost 100 percent loss of stands when harvest was delayed to the late bloom stage. This can be more of a concern when late harvest is followed by high temperatures and low moisture supply.
As with close grazing, close cutting can lead to stand reduction. Harvesting at a height of four inches will help maintain strong root reserves, leading to fast recovery of re-growth and better stand persistence. Mixtures of orchardgrass with alfalfa or red clover should be managed to favor the legume. This is especially true with reference to fertilizer application and stage of maturity to harvest. Alfalfa orchardgrass mixtures should normally be harvested when alfalfa is at early bloom to one tenth bloom. This harvest state will produce good dry-matter yields, quality forage and favor stand persistence of the alfalfa.
Many diseases attack orchardgrass. Stem rust, leaf spots, brown stripe and scald are among the most prevalent in Missouri and surrounding states. Recent evidence from the University of Missouri's orchardgrass breeding program showed that the presence of rust on leaves lowered animal digestibility of the forage. Three years of grazing studies have documented that rust-infected orchardgrass varieties gave 0.2 to 0.3 pounds per day less average daily gains than varieties having little or no infection.
Diseases of orchardgrass are also partly responsible for stand depletions. Data from the University of Missouri showed that when the stem rust pathogen is present, orchardgrass stands are severely depleted during late July and throughout the month of August. The best and most practical means of controlling diseases, hence improving animal performance and stand persistence, is to plant varieties that are resistant or highly tolerant to foliar diseases.
The production of orchardgrass seed has not been a big business in Missouri. This is probably due to less demand than for tall fescue seed and because very few acres of orchardgrass are grown alone, making them suitable for seed harvest. Some producers have experienced difficulty in producing well-filled, high-quality seed. With the release of a more persistent, better performing variety, some Missouri farmers may be interested in seed production.
Good seed yields should be expected when farmers apply fertilizer according to soil test recommendations. This will usually include 60 to 80 pounds N applied in December or January. Higher rates of N will tend to encourage lodging. Nitrogen needs to be applied earlier than for hay production, as early applications form reproductive growth over leafy growth.
Seed yields also can be increased by clipping and removing the stubble shortly after each year's seed harvest. The summer re-growth may be used for grazing, but avoid heavy grazing during September and October. Forage can be grazed later in the fall when plants have become more winter hardy. However, this late fall growth will be less acceptable to cattle than tall fescue.
Orchardgrass will respond to good fertility and management practices by producing 2-1/2 to 4 tons of high quality forage per acre. Early stand depletion has been one of the major complaints from farmers. With the development of more disease-resistant varieties to help maintain longer-lived stands, orchardgrass can take its place as one of the important cool-season grasses in Missouri.
Courtesy of MU Extension