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Faculty Research

January 13, 2015, Andrea Hahn

Is it a bean field or a cattle pasture? Rebecca Atkinson, associate professor, suggested years ago that farmers could use a forage-based soybean as an alternative to alfalfa to provide excellent grazing for cattle, with the added benefit of extending the grazing season. She’s reached a stage in her research where her conclusions have gone public among the farming community, and the news is good.

Atkinson used tall-growing varieties originally bred for use in deer food plots. “I started doing research with them for cattle, and ever since the soybeans have gained popularity all over the United States,” she said. “There are beef and dairy producers using them for grazing, silage, haulage and hay.”

Atkinson found that the forage soybeans hold up well within an intensive rotational grazing system. In addition to grazing, forage soybean nutritional content compares favorably with alfalfa when used for silage, and early reports on soybean hay indicate it holds up with alfalfa hay as well. In addition, forage soybeans can be double-cropped by planting right after the wheat harvest. The forage varieties, Atkinson reported, are pasture-ready as early as six weeks after planting.

News of Atkinson’s research findings appeared in Hay and Forage Grower magazine and hayandforage.com this spring, and in Minnesota Farm Guide in the early summer. She’s also been cited in Progressive Farmer, Midwest Producer, and even the Mississippi Hunting and Fishing Forum, and in agriculture news blogs operated at Purdue University and the University of California, Davis.