Forage chicory ( Cichorium intybus L.)
is a perennial which is suited to be grown on well-drained
or moderately drained soils having medium to high
fertility and a pH of 5.5 or greater. Chicory has
good seedling vigor and a relatively deep taproot
which provides tolerance to drought. It provides
both spring and summer forage growth for livestock.
Unlike most forage crops, it is an herb rather
than either a grass or a legume.
Chicory produces leafy growth which, if managed
properly, is similar in nutritive value and mineral
content to alfalfa or cool-season grasses. It is
highly palatable to livestock. New Zealand scientists
report that liveweight gains can be as high as
those obtained with perennial ryegrass/white clover
mixtures. This plant is usually grazed, but can
also be used to improve the quality of a silage
Records indicate that chicory was first introduced
into the United States in the late 1700's, and
it has since become a common roadside weed in areas
north of a line between mid- Virginia and mid-Oklahoma.
During the Civil War, ground chicory root was used
as a substitute for coffee, and it is still used
as a coffee additive in some areas. However, wild
or common chicory produces low forage yields.
Though forage chicory is a relatively new forage
crop in the United States, it has been used in
other countries for more than 300 years. It originated
in Central Europe, but much of the breeding for
improved forage characteristics has been done in
New Zealand. This includes development of the variety
'Puna,' which has recently been widely marketed
in the United States.
During the winter, forage chicory is a low-growing
rosette plant with broad leaves. At this stage
it looks very much like dandelion. With warm temperatures
in the spring, it produces large numbers of leaves
from the crown. After the establishment year, a
few flower stems begin to develop in late spring
from the crown and the shoots will reach heights
of 6 feet if ungrazed. At this point it resembles
curly dock except that it has blue flowers and
a different type of seedhead.
- Prepared by Dr. Don Ball, Extension Forage
Crop Agronomist, Dept. of Agronomy & Soils,
Auburn University, AL 36849
Seeding Into A Tilled Seedbed -
A moist, firm seedbed is required for forage chicory,
or mixtures of chicory and grass, or chicory and
legumes. Plot seedings made in both spring and
in autumn have been successful in Alabama. In New
Zealand it can be successfully established in summer,
but this summer planting has not been evaluated
Seed may be either drilled or broadcast. Drilling
is preferred because it provides a more uniform
depth of planting. Chicory seeds should be planted
0.25- to 0.5-inch deep. Cultipacking the seedbed
before and after broadcast seeding (as is recommended
for alfalfa) ensures that the seeds have good seed-to-soil
contact and are not planted too deeply.
Seeding Into An Existing Pasture -
No-till seeding of chicory into existing pastures
has been successful in the Northeast. However,
proper management is necessary to improve the likelihood
of establishment with this method. Suppression
of the existing sod to reduce competition in the
first step. Seeding early in the spring or using
a molluscide bait will reduce the potential damage
associated with slug feeding on chicory seedlings.
Seeding rates in mixtures -
As with most forages, the optimum seeding rate
for chicory varies with seedbed conditions, seeding
method, and seed quality. When seeding chicory
alone, a rate of 4 to 5 pounds per acre is recommended.
For mixtures, 2 to 3 pounds of chicory along with
a 2/3 of the usual seeding rate of other forages
has been found to be appropriate.
In mixtures which include chicory, a cool season
legume is usually included because of its nitrogen
fixing capability. Germination of stored seed can
decline rapidly, therefore seed should be used
promptly and not stored from year to year.
No herbicides are currently registered for use
with chicory either during or after establishment.
Therefore, it is important to select fields which
are expected to have little weed pressure. If weeds
do become a problem during establishment, mowing
can help suppress them. Chicory regrows rapidly
after mowing and can outgrow most weeds.
Correct grazing management is essential to maximize
the life of the chicory stand (which can be 5 to
7 years) and maintain forage quality. Furthermore,
the thick taproot of chicory can be exposed and
damaged by overgrazing and/or excessive hoof traffic.
Thus, care in grazing management is required for
Spring-seeded chicory can be grazed after 80 to
100 days, depending on climatic conditions. Researchers
at the USDA Pasture Laboratory in Pennsylvania
found that Puna chicory can yield more than 3 tons
per acre during the seeding year (Table 1), but
first-year yields will likely be lower in Alabama.
Chicory production is optimized under rotational
stocking (rotational grazing) management. Depending
on time of year and climatic conditions (and thus
the rate of regrowth), a rest period of 25 to 30
days between grazings is best for chicory persistence
and performance. A stubble height of 1.5 to 2 inches
should remain after grazing or cutting.
Prolonged close and/or frequent grazing or frequent,
close harvesting may adversely affect forage mass
and early spring growth in subsequent years. On
the other hand, when mixtures including chicory
are grazed at low stocking densities, Puna chicory
will likey be preferentially grazed, which places
it at a competitive disadvantage compared with
less palatable species. Competitiveness and ultimately
stand survival of Puna chicory may be substantially
reduced when overgrazing occurs.
|Table 1. Dry matter yields of 'Puna' chicory
under six harvest management schedules during the seeding year. Chicory
was seeded on April 30 in Centre County, Pennsylvania.
Keep Stems From Growing -
After the seeding year, chicory grows vigorously and will attempt to produce
stems in the late spring and early summer. Stubble heights greater than 1.5
inches, or rest periods longer than 25 days can allow stems to bolt (rapid
Once bolting has occurred, the production potential of the plants is reduced
for the remainder of the grazing season or until the stems are mowed. Management
practices which do not allow the chicory flower stems to exceed a 6 to 10 inch
height in late May, and grazing or clipping to a 1.5-inch stubble height will
reduce the amount of stem bolting.
To date, little work has been done with chicory in Alabama, but 5 or more
harvests or grazedowns should be possible under our usual climatic conditions.
When animals are strip grazed on chicory, a back fence (to exclude animals
from areas they just grazed) should be used so that regrowth will not be grazed
and the stand weakened.
Manage For Quality, Yield, And Animal Performance -
Established forage chicory stands have quality potentials and yields comparable
to, or better than, most other forage crops. Protein levels range from 10 to
32 percent, depending on plant maturity. Also, the digestibility and the mineral
content of chicory leaves reportedly can be as high or higher than those of
The digestibility of chicory leaves is generally between 90 and 95 percent.
The flower stems are less digestible than the leaves. This is an additional
reason to manage chicory pastures so that stems do not develop fully. Forage
yields of 6 tons per acre have been obtained from pure chicory stands in Pennsylvania
Animal performance on forage chicory has been exceptional. In West Virginia
trials, forage chicory pastures produced lamb gains of 820 pounds per acre.
Studies in New Zealand have reported animal gains of 0.6 pounds per day for
lambs and 2 pounds per day for Friesian bulls. Chicory contains relatively
high levels of minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, zinc, and sodium)
which are essential for proper animal nutrition.
Fertility needs should be determined by soil test, but should be similar to
those for orchardgrass. Phosphorus and potassium levels at seeding should be
in the moderate to optimum range. Nitrogen fertilizer should be applied at
planting at a rate of 35 pounds per acre to stimulate chicory establishment.
If chicory is seeded with a legume, the nitrogen application at seeding can
Chicory requires a high level of fertility for maximum production. It is also
quite responsive to N fertilization. If chicory is grown without a legume,
at least 100, and up to 150 pounds of N/acre/year should be provided to an
established stand in split applications of 50 pounds per acre. The first should
be made in early spring when the chicory becomes green, the second in early
summer (optional), and the third in early fall.
Yield responses to N fertilizer rates up to 200 pounds N/acre have been reported.
However, as N rate increases so does stem growth. Thus, the yield increase
from N fertilization must be weighed against the ability to prevent chicory
stems from bolting. If chicory is planted with alfalfa or another legume, annual
N applications should be restricted to limit the effect the N has on reducing
nitrogen fixation of the legume.
Forage chicory is a deep-rooted perennial plant which grows best on fertile,
well-drained soils. It will provide spring and summer growth which can supplement
the grazing season during the traditional "summer slump" of the cool-season
forage species. Puna, the most widely advertised variety of forage chicory
currently sold in the United States, has performed well in trials in several
states (mostly in the Midwest or Northeast, but including in North Georgia
where season-long second year yields were over 4 1/2 tons of dry matter per
acre). Under a clipping or rotational stocking regime, it has persisted and
appeared to make a substantial forage contribution in observational plots and
in farm seedings in Alabama. Other commercially available varieties are 'Good
Hunt,' and 'Forage Feast.'
At this point we do not have a good understanding of exactly what situations
and which areas of the state in which forage chicory has the most potential.
However, it is likely that it fits best as a companion species with cool season
grasses and/or legumes on well-drained soils in north Alabama. However, forage
chicory definitely has some attributes, and innovative producers may find any
number of situations in which it fits. Regardless of the manner in which it
is used, proper management will be essential to obtain adequate yield, quality,
and persistence from this unique forage plant.
NOTE: The information in this publication was obtained from a number of
sources, but especially from Agronomy Facts Number 45 titled, "Forage Chicory," by
Dr. Marvin H. Hall (Associate Professor of Agronomy) and Dr. Gerald A. Jung
(Adjunct Professor of Agronomy), Penn State University.