Where do Warm Seasons Fit?
Have you ever heard about warm season annuals and wondered where they can fit in your rotation? Here are a few ways these versatile annuals can be used:
Warm Season Forage
Warm season annuals like sorghum sudangrass, sudangrass, millet and cowpeas make excellent forage over the summer months. These species do best in the heat of the summer and can be harvested multiple times. Harvest method depends on which species or blend of species you use. Forage sorghum can be harvested standing similar to corn silage while sudangrass and millet work best harvested in multiple cuttings as baleage. A mix like Summer Blend, shown below, can also provide grazing throughout the summer to give you perennial pastures a rest. Soils have to be at least 60 degrees and rising to be planted, so these species work well after a small grain or spring cover crop.
Prevent Plant or Emergency Forage
Although we hope this does not happen, warm season annuals can work well in prevent plant situations as well as providing emergency forage. When conditions do not cooperate to get your planned cash crop in, warm season annual blends can be planted as a cover crop or as a forage. If it is the beginning of summer and you are in need of more dry hay, Teff can act as an emergency forage and provide dry hay while growing in during the hottest part of the year.
Fall Seeding Opportunity
Planting warm season annuals early summer can set land up perfectly for a fall seeding of alfalfa or pasture. Warm seasons planted as a cover crop and terminated before this planting can contribute to soil building. Planting a blend of warm season provides varying root systems to kickstart soil biology. Warm season legumes will also fix nitrogen in the plant tissues that can be released to the next plants being seeded. Using a summer or two of annuals to improve soils that were previously row cropped is an important step in transitioning to perennials. Using annuals to condition the soil prepares it well for the smaller seeded, slower establishing perennials. The dense vegetation of warm season annuals also does wonders for weed control leading up to the perennial seeding.
If one or more of these uses stands out to you, consider warm season annuals in your rotation!