Southbend Year 1 Report – “Late Season Grazing and Passive Fertilization”

Late season grazing and passive fertilization

The project is two fold: First, to study late season forage quality of five perennial grasses; creeping red fescue, crested wheatgrass, Russian wildrye, western wheatgrass, and meadow brome; and secondly to determine if establishment, quality, and yield are affected by passive fertilization (cow manure from winter feeding)

Year 1 Seeding
The study was a split plot design. The main plot was split into 2 halves – one half was fertilized and the other was not fertilized. Then, the two halves were further divided into 5 strips each (60 ft * 700 ft). Each strip was seeded with one of the grass species. Each of the 10 resulting strips is just under 1 ac in size and all species were seeded at 20 pounds/acre (Figure 1)

Figure 1. Research lay-out to study the effects of fertilized versus unfertilized areas on establishment, forage quality and yields into the winter season of 5 species of grasses.


After germination, the number of plants per area were measured in 8 random places (plots) in each of the 10 strips. The number of established plants per area were statistically compared to see if passive fertilization (manure from feeding cattle) increased establishment success by a statistically significant amount.

There was no significant effect of passive fertilization on seedling establishment; moreover, the effect of passive fertilization on establishment was not consistent across the five grass species tested.

The table below outlines that passive fertilization did improve establishment of crested wheatgrass, creeping red fescue and Russian wildrye, but not to a statistically significant level. Crested wheatgrass and creeping red fescue benefitted equally from passive fertilization, followed by Russian wildrye and then western wheatgrass. Meadow brome did not benefit from passive fertilization.

Species           Fertilization           Plants/acre
Creeping red fescue Yes 2,362,250
Creeping red fescue No 1,700,820
Crested wheatgrass Yes  2,078,780
Crested wheatgrass No 1,417,350
Meadow brome Yes 448,828
Meadow brome No 585,838
Russian wildrye Yes 1,275,615
Russian wildrye No 803,165
Western wheatgrass Yes 661,430
Western wheatgrass No 614,185


Next Stages – Year 2
Year 1 was an establishment year and therefore no yields were collected. In year 2, the fields will be monitored for forage quality and yields into the fall/winter season.