The main warm-season crops used in Saskatchewan include corn and millets.
Warm-season crops generally need warm soils to germinate and more heat to mature than cool-season species. To achieve optimum forage production, they should be allowed to mature through July and August.
Millets are used primarily for swath grazing. A summary of data from Lacombe found that oats, barley, and triticale produced more stable yields than millets.
Both corn and millet require more management and are generally slower to develop through the seedling stage than cool-season crops. As a result, they are not good competitors with weeds.
Warm-season crops tolerate hot dry conditions during the summer better than cool-season crops, but they cannot tolerate frost.
In years with cool summers, the warm-season crops do not yield well.
- Corn is best adapted to areas with more than 2,000 corn heat units, but, with the introduction of new low-heat unit hybrids, corn is increasingly being adopted throughout Saskatchewan for silage and late-fall or early-winter grazing.
- Because costs are high and proper variety selection, seeding rate and method, fertility and pest control are critical to successful production, first-time growers should consult with an agrologist prior to seeding corn.
- In order to reduce financial risk, producers should also purchase Corn Heat Unit Insurance through Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation.
- Provided that the agronomic package is adhered to, corn generally produces more forage than cereal, but late-summer frost can substantially reduce yields.
- If corn is left standing for grazing, cattle should be preconditioned prior to grazing to reduce the risk of acidosis.
- Limiting paddock size and grazing days per paddock by using electric fencing to strip graze while providing hay free choice will reduce the risk of grain overload and decrease wastage. Refer to Grazing Standing Corn – Reducing the Risk of Acidosis for full details.
- When used for grazing, corn should be at the 30 to 50 per cent milk line at the first killing frost. If kernels have reached maturity or black layer (the cells at the bottom of the kernel appear black), the risk of acidosis is increased and supplemental roughage is required.
- If used for silage, harvest should occur when grain kernel development uniformly reaches the 50 per cent milk line stage. Whole plant moisture at this time is near 65 per cent, but can be greatly reduced by frost.
- Millets can be grown in all soil zones of the province, but often do not out-yield cereals for greenfeed, silage, or pasture. They can grow well in high summer heat and, because of their late maturity and ability to hold quality, some types are suited to swath grazing.
- Millets needs adequate heat units and high moisture, or they are slow to establish and do not compete well with weeds. Green foxtail is especially difficult to control in millet stands.
- The most common types of millets grown in Saskatchewan are Proso millet, Foxtail millet, and Pearl millet.
- Proso millets tend to tiller more than the other two. They are earlier maturing but often lower yielding.
- Foxtail millet varieties vary from early to late maturing. Later-maturing varieties like golden German often yield better than early-maturing varieties.
- Golden German millet yields similar to barely, may weather better in the swath than oats or barley, and does not produce viable seed, so does not volunteer like Proso millet.
- All millets are slow to dry down for greenfeed and, as a result, should be crimped or sprayed with glyphosate to speed drying. These measures are not necessary if the crop is to be used for swath grazing.