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Forage studies: UW professor focuses research on production and management

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

UW professor focuses research on production and management

University of Wyoming (UW) Professor, Forage Agroecologist and Department of Plant Sciences Extension Forage Specialist Dr. Anowar Islam shares he has found several forage production discoveries while working at the UW Research and Extension Centers around the state.

Included in the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station system are the Laramie Research and Extension Center; Powell Research and Extension Center; James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Lingle; and the Sheridan Research and Extension Center. 

Forage production research 

“I do a lot of research and teach several courses on forages, on top of doing Extension work,” says Islam. “Since starting, I’ve initiated a lot of research on forage production, specifically on forage production and management – which includes the development of modern and innovative research and outreach and Extension programs.” 

Several of his research programs include: germplasm search and evaluation for selection/cultivar development; establishment and best management practices for profitable and sustainable forage and livestock production; grazing management and integration of cropping systems; establishing and incorporation of legumes such as alfalfa, sainfoin, birdsfoot trefoil, cicer milkvetch and medics into grass systems; multipurpose use of forages; and nutritive value and seed production.  

In addition, some of his research focus is on the establishment and management practices applicable to livestock production and grazing systems and incorporation of legumes. 

“I also do a lot of work on grass-legume mixes,” he adds. “Since I started at UW in 2008, I’ve been continuously working on several areas of focus.” 

Research project discoveries 

“As an Extension forage specialist, I receive questions every week about what species/varieties to plant and how/when to plant them,” Islam says. “I’ve done a lot of research and trials on several different grasses and legumes, especially on legumes, because a lot of people have an interest in alfalfa.” 

Alfalfa is the most frequently grown forage legume and contributes more than $3 million in the state’s economy, and in the U.S., alfalfa contributes more than $9 billion every year, he notes.  

Not all alfalfa varieties available in the U.S. are suitable for planting in Wyoming conditions, he explains. 

Islam has found the 40:60 or 50:50 mixes of grass-alfalfa are suitable for Wyoming conditions. The mixtures could be planted together or in alternative rows of grass and alfalfa. With alternative row plating, there is evidence of lower alfalfa weevil infestation compared to alfalfa alone, Islam adds.

In the last few years, he has also looked into harvesting practices, including the best time to cut alfalfa and fertilizer application timelines, he shares. 

In many instances, Islam has found what soils and plants need in terms of fertilizer and nitrogen will be dependent upon the soil structure and environment. 

“What works best really depends on the physiology of the plant,” he says. “If producers are interested in knowing more, we have several articles and publications on the research and they can reach out to me anytime.” 

Another project Islam and his students are working on is to not only improve productivity and quality, but improve persistence of alfalfa and alfalfa-grass mix. 

“Sometimes, with alfalfa, producers can’t graze due to a bloat problem, but if alfalfa can be mixed with grass, there is no bloat problem at all,” he says. “Our study has found if we have 30 to 40 percent grass-alfalfa mix, many producers will be safe from bloat issues – we’re doing a lot of studies on this.” 

With a 50:50 ratio, quality does not decline, and there is a better persistence of an alfalfa-grass mix. With this mixture, producers can experience higher quality, higher productivity, higher persistence and it offers more of an economic benefit compared to an all alfalfa or all grass forage. 

Other topics of interest include irrigation systems and productivity. 

For more information, visit or contact Anowar Islam by calling 307-766-4151 or e-mailing 

Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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