Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: July 14, 2002
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The vast majority of the American public is concerned about water and air quality, and about loss of wildlife habitat. They also agree that stricter regulations are needed to protect the environment and that incentives should be made available to farmers who adopt improved management practices. Perennial forages, such as alfalfa, clovers, and forage grasses, have traits that make them highly effective tools to reduce soil erosion, protect and improve soil, water, and air quality, and provide wildlife habitat. Because they are grown continuously for several years on the same field, they reduce water and nutrient runoff and improve soil tilth. Their long season of growth reduces nitrate leaching to sensitive drinking water aquifers and streams. Some species have deep roots that can remove leached nitrate from other crops, or even from fertilizer spills. At the same time, perennial forage legumes grown in rotation with annual crops reduce the need for purchased chemical fertilizer. The perennial nature of these forage crops provides cover and feed for a wide variety of wildlife and improve the visual aesthetics of the rural landscape. Ecological benefits can be maximized by planting perennial forages in strategically selected fields. Farmers who grow perennial forages should be recognized for the environmental benefits they provide to the nation.