The plant and dairy science departments of South Dakota State University are currently evaluating an inter-cropping system between a new variety of soybean that grows like a vine and a new grazing corn hybrid.

The vining soybean was developed through hybrid breeding of a cultivated soybean named, Glycine max, with wild soybean named, G. soja.

"The soybean and corn seed were sown in alternate rows or mixed to sow so that the vining soybean grows by climbing and wrapping itself around the corn plant," explained Xingyou Gu, assistant professor in the plant science department.

Gu said that since soybeans belongs to the legume family, the plants can actually fix nitrogen in the soil that would benefit the corn plant. In addition, soybean plants harvested as haylage are high in crude protein, approximately 20 percent of dry matter, and can be very digestible.

The grazing corn hybrid being evaluated is MasterGraze, which is a high sugar corn that will not produce an ear. MasterGraze will be higher in crude protein approximately 14 percent of dry matter than normal corn silage.

"MasterGraze is a high energy/high sugar and protein corn plant that will readily ensile," Gu said. "Thus, the combination of soybeans and grazing corn could/will result in the production of a forage blend that is high in both protein and energy."

Gu, David Casper, assistant professor of dairy science, and the rest of the research team working on this corn, bean combination believe this forage blend has the potential to reduce the cost of growing dairy and beef heifers, beef steers, beef cows, and dairy cows in the dry period by reducing or eliminating protein and energy supplementation, i.e. soybean meal and corn.

Casper said, "High quality forages are highly valuable crops and the most economical nutrient sources for meeting the nutritional requirements of livestock."

To learn more about this research, visit iGrow.org