Researcher: Legumes can help winter wheat

As the winter wheat planting season continues, one agriculture researcher is wrapping up his study on increasing the nutritional quality of winter crops for silage.

Gonzalo Ferreira is an extension dairy scientist with the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Since 2013, he has been working on a study in which he tweaked different additives to winter crops including wheat, barley and rye.

The researcher planted the crops in monoculture, as well as accompanied by either crimson clover or hairy vetch.

Ultimately, Ferreira found that adding the legumes increased both the protein concentration and digestibility of the crops, while decreasing their fiber concentration.

“The general results are typically when you add legumes to the mixture, you will be increasing your protein concentration of the forage, and slightly lowering the fiber,” he said. “Generally speaking in that sense, you have an improvement in the quality.”

However, despite the increased nutritional benefits of adding legumes to the winter crops, Ferreira said legumes can increase the pH of a solution during the silage process. Thus, the idea could prove riskier to farmers who are already struggling with proper silage.

As it stands, a preliminary report of Ferreira’s findings can be found on the Virginia Cooperative Extension publication website at “”> under the title “Comparative Nutritional Quality of Winter Crops for Silage.”

Ferreira said he is near the point of finalizing a more data-heavy and technical write-up of his findings to put up on the Cooperative’s website in the near future.

Ferriera’s project was funded by a Conservation Innovation Grant via the Department of Dairy Sciences, as well as the Natural Resources Conservation Services.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or

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