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Silage-Maker


Tyrone soybeans are a forage alternative that's becoming more and more popular

Tyrone soybeans provide an abundance of forage when grazed, as well as outstanding yields when harvested and stored.
Tyrone soybeans provide an abundance of forage when grazed, as well as outstanding yields when harvested and stored.

A couple of years ago, when Southern States first added Tyrone soybeans to the mix of forage choices available to customers, it was received with guarded caution.

After all, the idea of a soybean variety used as a forage is a little out of the ordinary—at least in recent history. Soybeans were originally grown in the U.S. as forage for livestock. In 1924, a million acres were planted for hay. But use of soybeans as hay soon declined because of the difficulty in drying the forage.

Instead, soybeans as a grain became the wonder crop of the 20th century. By 1964, only 3% of U.S. soybeans were being grown as forage.

Now the pendulum is swinging back, with renewed interest in soybeans as a forage. Part of the comeback is due to improved forage soybean varieties. With new varieties, dairy and livestock producers have new opportunities for using soybeans as a high-quality, nutritious forage.

Also, improved technology for ensiling it reduces the need for drying the crop.

Tyrone is the most popular forage variety in the Southeast. It is ideal in states from Maryland southward, where the long growing season and mild winters allow farmers to double-crop. After harvesting soybeans in the fall, many farmers plant a small grain, such as wheat or barley, that's harvested in the spring or grazed by livestock.

The Tyrone variety, which is capable of growing to 6 feet and above, was developed as a forage alternative by the USDA.

Best of all, because it reaches a mature forage stand in 50 days (before pod formation), it's ideal for double-cropping or for use as a catch crop.

Now that some growers have a couple of years' experience with growing Tyrones under their belts, word is spreading about how this forage crop produces abundant yields of quality forage.

"Tyrone soybeans produce a lot of forage, sometimes as much as 14 tons per acre," notes David Jessee, a Southern States agronomist. "However, like any crop they must be managed properly."

Tyrones are resistant to Phytophthora root rot and bacterial pustule, and they are moderately resistant to downy mildew.

Harold Sorrell, who has grown Tyrones for several years, uses the harvested forage in a variety of feed mixes on his cattle operation near Hillsboro, Ky. He says it works especially well in wet years, because it can be stored.

Bryan Conrad uses Tyrone in his replacement dairy heifer operation near White Post, Va. He says protein and energy levels compare favorably with alfalfa, and protein levels run at or above 20%.

Jessee stresses that timely harvesting is critical; for the best quality forage they should be harvested before pod fill. "If you allow the beans to mature, biomass will increase," he notes. "But protein and digestibility decreases significantly when compared to harvesting before pod fill."

For more information about Tyrone forage soybeans, see your local Southern States retailer.


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