Dan Hudson has been running test plots to share information on establishment of reed canary grass with and without companion or nurse crops. His results, shown in this video of his plots one year after planting, can give you some idea of what to expect in your own pastures and plantings and how these kinds of planting might work for you.
Dan includes these observations with the video:
Companion crops can increase forage and quality in the establishment year when seeding forage with low seedling vigor like reed canary grass. However, it is likely that using companion crops will reduce your yield for the first cut of the second year or at least delay the date of the first and subsequent harvests of the second year. Because reed canary grass spreads by rhizomes, it is likely to fill in the gaps in the third year, depending on management.
While red clover is not typically thought of as a ‘companion crop,’ the 6 lb/ac seeding rate seemed to provide everything one would want of a companion crop in our conditions: increased yield and quality, very competitive against weeds, did not seem to out-compete the reed canary grass. Further, it was still present in the second year as the reed canary grass continued to fill in.
A moderate rate of spring triticale or an oat/pea combination will also improve first year yields, but seems likely reduce your reed canary grass yield in the second year. The extent will vary with conditions and management, and the effects my be mitigated by better soil fertility management after the triticale or oat/pea crops are harvested.
Italian ryegrass should increase your yield and quality in the first year, but could be so ‘successful’ that it results in the reed canary grass not getting established at all.
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