Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center2008 Annual Report
1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
Objective 1: Determine effects of plant and endophyte genetics, management practices, and environmental conditions on sward yield, persistence, and forage quality and anti-quality factors, and the resulting animal response in forage systems in which tall fescue is a component. Subobjective 1.A. Develop a better understanding of plant physiological processes that impart persistence in tall fescue and the interaction between the plant and Neotyphodium endophyte in these processes. Use this new understanding and plant selection techniques to develop new populations of tall fescue that are either endophyte free or contain nontoxic endophytes that promote host persistence under grazing. Subobjective 1.B. Determine the potential toxicity of tall fescue grazing systems, including complementary grazing, intensive grazing, and stockpiling, by better understanding how plant physiological, morphological, and genetics factors, and pre- and post-harvest management decisions affect ergot alkaloid content. Objective 2: Determine management schemes for the sustainable production of small ruminants from temperate pastures. Objective 3: Improve inorganic and organic fertilizer use efficiency in pastures. Subobjective 3.A. Improve the efficiency of organic and inorganic fertilizer use in pastures by incorporating nutrients into the soil. Subobjective 3.B. Evaluate the effects of grazing systems and buffers on the loss of agrochemicals from pastures and hay fields.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Replicated field experiments will evaluate cow-calf and stocker management practices and genotypes on novel endophyte-free or -infected tall fescue pastures to alleviate fescue toxicosis and improve calf production. Grazing and management systems will be developed for sheep and goat production to manage gastrointestinal nematodes and improve post-weaning gains of lambs and kids. A tractor-drawn implement to incorporate poultry litter under the soil surface in perennial pasture will be developed, and a comparison of nutrient losses from applied poultry litter compared to conventional surface application will be examined. Cattle grazing systems and buffers will be examined to reduce the loss of agrochemicals from pastures and hay fields by collecting runoff water samples from watersheds for sediment and nutrient analyses and soil properties will be characterized. Management practices will be evaluated that optimize the proportion of a landscape/farm in temperate pastures and silvopastures to maximize environmental and economic returns. Potential bioenergy feedstocks will be examined for their suitability to integration in mid-South pasture and silvopasture systems.
3. Progress Report
Field studies testing the ability of a prototype machine (ARS Poultry Litter Subsurfer) for the incorporation of poultry litter into pastures has been initiated to determine its ability to minimize nutrient losses and control odors from poultry litter applied to perennial pastures and other no-till agricultural production systems. Preliminary studies have found that using a knifing technique to apply poultry litter under the pasture surface can decrease nutrient losses by more than 90%, while increasing forage yields. Watersheds have been constructed for a runoff study in Arkansas, and the prototype was demonstrated on farms in Arkansas, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. In our efforts to evaluate management schemes for the sustainable production of small ruminants from temperate pastures we examined the use of dried sericea lespedeza for control of gastrointestinal nematodes in goats. Research demonstrated that as little as 25 percent of the diet exhibited control over Haemonchus contortus, an abomasal nematode, but not intestinal nematodes. Use of pelleted sericea lespedeza in sheep did not consistently control gastrointestinal nematodes. Perhaps degradation of the condensed tannin in sericea lespedeza decreases efficacy as an anthelmintic. Another study indicated that copper oxide wire particles mixed in feed may be more effective than in a bolus for control of H. contortus in goats. A study examining the survival and growth responses of shortleaf pine families for silvopasture, evaluated 337 shortleaf pine families to facilitate selection of best performing families. The top 25 best performing families had survival ranging from 13 to 16 out of a possible 18 sample trees that were initially established. Sufficient quantities of seed from these families will be planted under greenhouse conditions to accommodate the next phase of the project, in which shortleaf pine plantations will be established in warm-season grass pastures on south- and west-facing slopes that currently are growing only low quality hardwoods. (Component 2 of NP215 and Component 7 of NP103) ADODR monitored this project by frequent emails, telephone calls, and meetings.
1. System for applying dry poultry litter below the pasture surface: Poultry litter provides a rich source of nutrients for perennial forages, but the current practice of spreading litter on the surface of pastures allows significant nutrient losses that decrease nutrient-use efficiency and often lead to serious odor and air- and water-quality problems. Scientists at the Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center (DBSFRC), Booneville, AR, found that placing poultry litter applications below the pasture surface can decrease these problems by more than 90%. The DBSFRC research team has developed a prototype machine, the ARS Poultry Litter Subsurfer, in cooperation with the National Soil Dynamics Laboratory to make this technology a practical management option for producers. A patent application entitled System for Distributing Poultry Litter below the Soil Surface was submitted for this technology by USDA-ARS in July, 2008. This technology has the potential to improve pasture productivity and help solve both air-quality and water-quality problems on millions of acres, including those associated with excessive nutrient loading into municipal water supplies. (Component 2 of NP215)
2. Evaluation of novel endophyte-infected tall fescue on growth rate and grazing behavior of beef heifers: Ruminants grazing toxic tall fescue have reduced feed intake, average daily gain and poor conception rates, costing livestock producers $600 million annually. Fescue cultivars have been developed that contain a novel endophyte that does not produce the toxic ergot alkaloids that cause fescue toxicosis, but comparisons of breed types of growing heifers grazing different fescue cultivars are limited. ARS scientists from Booneville, AR, with cooperation from the University of Arkansas, conducted a study to evaluate the effects of toxic and novel endophyte-infected tall fescue on growth and grazing behavior of pregnant Brangus and Gelbvieh x Angus heifers. Average daily gain was not different between breed types; however, heifers grazing novel endophyte fescue were heavier than heifers grazing toxic fescue. Fewer heifers grazing toxic fescue were observed grazing during the hot time of the day than heifers grazing novel endophyte fescue. Incorporation of novel endophyte-infected tall fescue into a grazing program can increase the performance of pregnant beef heifers compared with heifers consuming toxic endophyte-infected tall fescue partially due to more time spent grazing and less time in the shade. (Component 2 of NP215 and Component 2 of NP101)
3. Use of FAMACHA system to evaluate gastrointestinal nematode resistance in offspring of stud rams: Widespread resistance of gastrointestinal worms to chemical dewormers has underlined the importance of parasite control in small ruminants. The FAMACHA system, a tool to classify color of lower eye lid into stages of anemia which correlates with Haemonchus contortus infection, was recently validated in the U.S. by trained technicians, but its use in genetic selection has not been examined. Scientists at USDA, ARS in Booneville, AR, in cooperation with Louisiana State University, determined that the FAMACHA system can be used to identify superior sires for parasite resilience/resistance, thus increasing flock resilience, and perhaps resistance. These results indicate that selection using the FAMACHA system aids in the control of H. contortus, which could save cost of deworming and lost animals by improving flock genetics. (Component 2 of NP215 and Component 7 of NP103)
5. Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
Scientists have participated in activities targeting minority, historically under-served operators/stakeholders including: 1) collaborator on a SARE grant awarded to 1890s institution, Fort Valley State University and a SARE grant awarded to this USDA, ARS station with Fort Valley State University listed as a co-principal investigator; 2) co-advisor of a minority student from University of Arkansas; 3) cooperator on Capacity Building Grants awarded to Fort Valley State University, Delaware State University and Virginia State University; 4) participated in meetings of the Southern Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control, attended by 1890s institute representatives from Fort Valley State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Delaware State University, Southern University, Langston University, Virginia State University, and Hispanic-serving, University of Puerto Rico; 5) collaborated with Virginia State University and Langston University with research projects involving small ruminant parasite control; 6) collaboration with University of Maryland Eastern Shore on implement to incorporate poultry litter into soil for fertilizer. Scientists have participated in activities targeting small farmers, including: 1) training small ruminant extension agents and producers in the use of methods to control gastrointestinal parasites; 2) review panel for Southern Region SARE producer grants; 3) on-farm organic research in small ruminants at the Heifer Ranch of Heifer International, Perryville, AR, and two private farms in Oklahoma; 4) hosted a field day for small ruminant producers; 5) participated in a tour of minority farmers from Kentucky organized by Kentucky State University.
Pote, D.H., Kingery, W.L., Aiken, G.E., Han, F.X., Moore Jr, P.A. 2006. Incorporating granular inorganic fertilizer into perennial grassland soils to improve water quality. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 61(1):1-7.