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Choose the Right Kale to Secure Quality Out-Wintered Forage
2011-07-01

Winter hardiness and a high nutritional value should be key criteria when selecting kale varieties as a supplementary feed source, says Francis Dunne of forage specialists Field Options.

Choosing the correct kale will ensure adequate fodder stocks for over-wintering.

Kale crop

With kale crops destined for out-wintering being sown mid-summer, Mr Dunne is reminding livestock farmers of the damage caused to standing crops by frost and snow in the past two years, and adds that D-value and protein content should be a major consideration as they can vary significantly between forage kale varieties.

“The winter of 2010-11 in particular highlighted hardiness problems in some forage kale varieties, despite them previously being considered hardy,” he says. “Many livestock farmers will be heavily reliant on strip-grazed kale and it is entirely possible that we could see another harsh winter. It is simply not worth taking a chance on a variety that cannot tolerate frost and snow.

“In terms of nutritional quality, it is especially important to look at the D-value, as these can vary from 63 to 70 in forage kale varieties. The combination of true winter hardiness and high D-value is far more important than outright yield in many circumstances.”
Based on his own experiences as well as variety data sheets, Mr Dunne places the hybrid kale Bittern ahead of all other varieties in terms of winter hardiness, and – at 68 D-value – it also delivers the desired quality.

“Bittern performed well in the most extreme conditions last winter whilst other kale varieties struggled alongside it,” he reports. “It derives its winter hardiness from Brussels sprouts, which are prevalent in its parentage, and is also high yielding with very good whole plant digestibility. It is a tall plant, but has good resistance to lodging.”

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