Increasing Russian Forage Production Through Improved Fertilization

Occupying nearly 20% of all cultivated land, grasses and legumes are key forage crops in Russia. Unfortunately, a lack of fertilization combined with low-quality seed has resulted in low yields of forage grasses with poor silage quality. In a bid to improve the domestic dairy industry and reduce milk product imports, the agricultural sector has sought to increase the production of high quality forage.

IPNI launched a research initiative to improve forage yields and quality through improved management in Vologda, a major milk production region in northwest Russia. The project compared two treatments on a leading regional dairy farm with 2,600 ha of forage crops: 1. The normal farm fertilization treatment combined with better forage seeds and 2. Optimal fertilization alongside the same improved forage seeds.

The results showed that the optimized management treatment, which included higher fertilizer application rates and more frequent cuttings, significantly increased both the productivity and quality of forage. Annual harvests also increased to four, largely due to the higher N rates applied in four applications. In total, fresh forage yields increased 40% compared to the 2nd treatment using traditional farm practice and forage production was triple that of the farm average. This translated into an average milk product increase for each cow of 2 liters of milk per day.

With the higher production costs from additional fertilizer use being offset by the improved yields, the project has shown that high-yield forage production using improved fertilization, crop management and seeds is possible and viable in Russia. This improved forage production could be key to kick starting Russia’s dairy industry.

The yield of dairy forage in Vologda is increased by both improved seeds and improved fertilizer practices