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Influence of cultivar, sowing date and maturity at harvest on yield, digestibility, rumen fermentation kinetics and estimated feeding value of maize silage

  • F. OPSI (a1), R. FORTINA (a1), G. BORREANI (a2), E. TABACCO (a2) and S. LÓPEZ (a3)...
Summary

Two maize hybrid cultivars, early (Cisko FAO 300) and late maturing (Arma FAO 700), were sown on three different dates (March, April or May) and harvested at two stages of maturity (kernel milk line (ML) scores of 1/4 < ML < 1/3 or 1/2 < ML < 2/3) in the western Po plain (Italy) in 2008. Yield, chemical composition and in vitro digestibility and fermentation kinetics of pre-ensiled whole-crop maize and of silage were measured. Cultivar and sowing date influenced the dry matter (DM) yield of whole-plant maize, with DM yield being 40% higher in Arma than in Cisko, and DM yield decreasing with later sowing dates. Later maturity increased DM concentration at harvest for both hybrids, due to differences in kernel development. The neutral detergent fibre (NDF) content declined and starch increased as plants matured. Digestibility was estimated in vitro following the Ankom procedure. Rate and extent of ruminal degradation were estimated from gas production (GP) profiles during incubation in diluted rumen fluid. Cultivar, planting date and maturity had no effect on in vitro DM digestibility of pre-ensiled whole-crop maize, but following 240 days of ensiling significant differences between cultivars in digestibility were detected. GP kinetic parameters differed between cultivars for pre-ensiled whole-crop maize, with Cisko having higher asymptotic GP but lower fractional fermentation rates and longer lag times than the Arma hybrid. GP volumes were greater as sowing or harvest dates were delayed. Energy value and milk production were estimated using the Milk2006 Model. With the pre-ensiled whole-crop maize, a 38% greater milk yield/ha was expected with Arma than with Cisko, matching the 40% greater DM yield. The same trend was observed in maize silage, where cultivar and planting date affected milk production/ha, with greater values for Arma than for Cisko and lower values for the latest planting date. Optimal management practices, including decision making on planting and harvest time and hybrid cultivar selection, can influence the yield and nutritive value of maize silage.

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      Influence of cultivar, sowing date and maturity at harvest on yield, digestibility, rumen fermentation kinetics and estimated feeding value of maize silage
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*To whom all correspondence should be addressed. Email: s.lopez@unileon.es
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