SOIL ORGANIC MATTER AND NUTRIENT CYCLING TO SUSTAIN AGRICULTURE IN THE SOUTHEASTERN USA
Location: Athens, Georgia
Title: Tall fescue persists and cattle perform well on a novel-endophyte association in the Southern Piedmont USA
Submitted to: Forage and Grazinglands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 13, 2008
Publication Date: February 27, 2009
Citation: Franzluebbers, A.J., Seman, D.H., Stuedemann, J.A. 2009. Tall fescue persists and cattle perform well on a novel-endophyte association in the Southern Piedmont USA. Forage and Grazinglands. Available doi:10.1094/FG-2009-2007-01-RS. 2009.
Interpretive Summary: Tall fescue is a cool-season grass widespread throughout the eastern USA. A fungus naturally infects the grass, and through its ergot alkaloid production, causes poor performance and low weight gain in animals that graze tall fescue. Grassland cattle producers in the southeastern USA have a choice of tall fescue-endophyte options: (a) poor animal performance and excellent stand persistence with wild-type endophyte infection, (b) excellent animal performance and poor stand persistence with endophyte-free infection, and (c) relatively unknown animal performance and stand persistence and substantial cost of pasture renovation using novel-endophyte infection. Scientists with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Watkinsville Georgia conducted a field study for 6 years to evaluate these options under continuous grazing. Cattle gain on a yearly basis was as good with broiler litter fertilization (475 lb gain/acre) as with inorganic fertilization (499 lb gain/acre). Therefore, manure from the 6 billion broilers produced in the USA each year can be an effective fertilizer on tall fescue pastures. Cattle performance on tall fescue pastures with the novel endophyte (1.7 lb gain/day) was as good as with endophyte-free association (1.6 lb gain/day), both of which were superior as on wild-endophyte-infected tall fescue (1.2 lb gain/day). With improved cattle performance and stand persistence, novel-endophyte-infected tall fescue pastures should be recommended for the establishment of new, sustainable, cool-season pastures in the Piedmont region, and these pastures can be effectively fertilized with broiler litter. These results have important implications for the more than half million farmers in the southeastern USA, as well as the agronomic support system of farm advisors, university extension, and research scientists.
Grazing and fertilization effects on long-term persistence of endophyte-free and novel-endophyte-infected tall fescue have not been well documented. A field study was conducted for 6 years to assess the persistence of tall fescue under grazing conditions and the production and performance of yearling heifers on wild-endophyte-infected, novel-endophyte-infected, and endophyte-free tall fescue associations fertilized with either inorganic N-P-K or broiler litter. Cattle performance and gain on a yearly basis were as good with broiler litter fertilization as with inorganic fertilization (P > 0.1), although seasonal shifts occurred. Cattle performance on tall fescue pastures with the novel endophyte was as good as, and in one year was even better than (P < 0.1), with endophyte-free association, both of which were superior to performance on wild-endophyte-infected tall fescue. With excellent cattle performance and stand persistence, novel-endophyte-infected tall fescue pastures should be recommended for the establishment of new, sustainable, cool-season pastures in the Piedmont region and these pastures can be effectively fertilized with broiler litter.