Location: Forage and Range Research
2012 Annual Report
Objective 2. Optimum grass-legume mixtures will be determined by evaluating tall fescue, meadow brome, orchardgrass, alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, and cicer milkvetch in grass/legume binary mixtures. Legume plant densities of 0 (with N fertilizer), 0 (without N fertilizer), 25, 50, 75, and 100 percent will be tested with each grass for a total of 48 treatments. Grazing pressure will be applied to the entire experiment for 7 days on a 28-day rotational interval. Immediately prior to each grazing period, one-half of each plot will be harvested with a forage plot harvester. Forage production and forage quality parameters including crude protein, neutral detergent fiber, acid detergent fiber, acid detergent lignin, and in vitro true digestibility will be evaluated.
Objective 3. The effects of tannins on nutrient cycling will be evaluated for the plant, soil, and soil water phases. Plant samples will be collected before and after each grazing event and herbage dry matter and total nitrogen (N) will be analyzed to determine the nutrients removed in the forage. Soil samples will be collected in the spring, prior to grazing, and in the fall after the growing season to a depth of 1.5 meters. Four soil cores will be taken in each plot and divided into three subsamples: 0-30 cm, 30-60 cm, 60-152 cm. Composite soil subsamples for each depth will be analyzed for available nitrogen (ammonia and nitrate) and for total Nitrogen. Soil water (leachate) nitrogen will be monitored by means of zero-tension lysimeters that were previously installed to a 120 cm depth. Leachate will be collected from the lysimeter collection basin every two weeks during the growing season and winter months. Samples will be analyzed for nitrate-nitrite. A mass balance approach comparing total nitrogen outputs against total nitrogen inputs for each treatment will be utilized to estimate losses due to volatilization.
An in vitro continuous culture study was conducted to investigate energy supplementation strategies on pasture forages to assess effects of energy supplementation [no concentrate, 30% ground corn, or 30% dried distilled grains with solubles (DDGS)] with 4 pasture forages TF without N fertilizer (TF-NF), TF with N fertilizer (TF+NF), TF-alfalfa mixture, and TF-birdsfoot trefoil mixture (TF+BFT)] on vitro ruminal fermentation and N utilization. The results indicated that supplementing pasture forages with corn or DDGS enhanced microbial assimilation of ammonia-N and shifted metabolic pathways of microbial fermentation and methane gas production. Supplementation of corn in the TF+BFT elicited a similar ammonia-N concentration compared when corn was supplemented in the TF+NF. Therefore, grass-legume mixtures would be a sustainable component in grass grazing systems to improve N utilization efficiency with appropriate energy supplementation. This study was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal, The Professional Animal Scientist.
The small plots of binary mixtures of five grasses [orchardgrass (OG), tall fescue (TF), meadow brome (MB), timothy, and perennial ryegrass (PR)] and three legumes [alfalfa (AF), birdsfoot trefoil (BF), and cicer milkvetch (CM)] were established and data collection initiated. Ratios in the mixtures included 0, 25, 50, and 75% legume composition. Tall fescue, OG, and MB grass-legume mixes averaged 6.0, 5.0, and 14.0% higher forage production than their respective grass monocultures. The highest seasonal forage production of TF combinations was 1.62 Mg/ha TF:AF (50:50), 1.63 Mg/ha TF:BF (75:25), and 1.64 Mg/ha TF:CM (75:25). Highest forage production of OG combinations was 1.10 Mg/ha OG:AF (50:50), 1.09 Mg/ha OG:BF (75:25), and 0.99 Mg/ha OG:CM (75:25). Highest seasonal forage production of MB combinations was 1.23 Mg/ha MB:AF (50:50), 1.25 Mg/ha MB:BF (75:25), and 1.11 Mg/ha MB:CM (75:25). These preliminary results suggest that grass-legume mixtures can be an effective strategy to improve pasture productivity.
In addition, the nutrient cycling experiment is underway. The paddocks were established, and baseline soil samples were collected in the fall of 2011. Grazing and data collection began in 2012. Soil subsamples were analyzed for available nitrogen (ammonia and nitrate) and for total N by combustion. Leachate samples are being collected every two weeks during the growing season. Samples are analyzed for nitrate-nitrite. Plant samples, collected before and after each grazing event, will be used to determine the nutrients removed in the forage. A mass balance approach comparing total nitrogen outputs against total nitrogen inputs for each treatment will be utilized to estimate losses due to volatilization. The effect of tannins on nitrogen cycling will be examined.