Both Oregon (Chastain and Grabe, 1989) and New Zealand (Hare, 1993) investigators concluded that it was more profitable to establish tall fescue under cereal cover crops than alone. In New Zealand, spring-sown tall fescue crops have been established successfully under barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), Chinese cabbage [Brassica rapa L. subsp. chinensis (L.) Hanelt], and linseed (Linum usitatissimum L.) companion crops. Linseed crops are good for this purpose, allowing light penetration once the linseed has reached maturity. In New Zealand, barley sown at 100, 150, or 200 kg/ha reduced forage tall fescue seed yield by 25% when compared with tall fescue established with no cover crop. When barley was sown at 37.5 or 75 kg/ha, there was no effect on forage tall fescue seed yields (Hare, 1993). Some growers have successfully sown two rows of barley alternating with one of tall fescue, but setting up the drill for such an operation is difficult. It is often easier to sow the barley first and then re-drill with tall fescue (in the same direction), sowing at no more than a 20-mm depth.
A variation on using companion crops is the use of relay crops, where tall fescue is direct-drilled into an emerged spring-sown crop. In Oregon, this has been demonstrated successfully with meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba Hartw. ex Benth.) crops (Steiner et al., 2002).
It is essential to remove the stubble from companion crops immediately after harvest to allow light to reach the tall fescue seedlings. Irrigation or good rainfall after harvest, and stubble removal of the companion crop, are required for good autumn tillering of the tall fescue.
The main problems with companion crops occur when heavy barley crops lodge before harvest, severely reducing tall fescue growth; when harvest of the companion crop is delayed into autumn, resulting in poor development of the tall fescue at that time; and when volunteer plants from previous crops become established, especially barley, resulting in crop competition.
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