Location: Forage and Livestock Production Research2008 Annual Report
1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
The overall goal of this project is to identify improved forage production techniques that will contribute to decreased costs of livestock production and increased income on limited-resource farms. The purpose is to develop low-input forage production techniques that are appropriate for resource-poor producers, and that will increase livestock carrying-capacity, improve early- and late-season forage production and reduce or eliminate expenditures for off-farm feed supplies. This purpose will be met by evaluating combinations of forages grown in mixtures or sequences, and by developing low-input management methods that will enable their use as a productive and persistent complement to, or replacement for, unimproved or degraded pasture. Specifically, we will focus on the following objectives: Objective 1. Identify appropriate forage species and develop low-input techniques for increasing forage production and extending the grazing season on degraded or unimproved pastures to increase year-round availability of homegrown forage and provide economically and environmentally sustainable forage production systems for under-served, resource-limited livestock producers. • Sub-objective 1A. Assess the productivity and persistence of non-traditional warm- and cool-season grass and legume mixtures for utilization under grazing. • Sub-objective 1B. Identify the most effective low-input establishment techniques (no-till drilling, broadcasting or self-seeding) for cool- and warm-season grass and legume forages established in mixtures with existing, unimproved pastures of native species or bermudagrass. Objective 2. Determine the cause(s) of poor establishment of cool-season grasses and legumes following self-seeding or over seeding into established pastures, such as loss of seed quality, hydration/dehydration cycles, temperature or moisture stress, and adverse soil characteristics such as compaction or plant litter. Objective 3. Determine the usefulness of accumulated temperature (degree days) as an aid to timing of pasture management operations such as fertilizer application and harvesting, in order to minimize competition in cool- and warm-season grass mixtures during seasonal transitions.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Replicated experiments will be undertaken in controlled-environment or in small-plot field trials to measure management effects on establishment, production and persistence of cool-season forages grown in mixtures with warm-season pasture. Processes of regeneration and persistence in cool-season grasses and legumes established by minimal tillage in sequence with unimproved warm-season pasture will be studied. Low-input methods of sowing that will improve the efficacy and predictability of establishment of forage grasses and legumes and that allow improved early-season production from cool-season forages will be evaluated. Indicators of the onset and termination of forage growth will be determined to facilitate management and to minimize or eliminate interference between cool- and warm-season forages. Results from the project will identify forage management systems adapted to low-input farms and forage mixtures that enhance and extend the productive grazing period of pastures.
3. Progress Report
A field study of predation on forage seeds continued during the current reporting period, and complementary laboratory studies were started. Small plot field experiments to examine the effects of reduced input sowing methods and of different species combinations on forage production of sequences of unimproved warm-season pasture and cool-season grasses were conducted in FY 2008. The effects of soil bulk density (soil compaction) on seedling growth in a range of cultivars of annual ryegrass and tall fescue were examined under controlled environment conditions. This study showed that, while there is a significant reduction in seedling growth as soil compaction increases, there was no difference in response to soil compaction among cultivars in either annual ryegrass or tall fescue. (NP215, Component 2).
5. Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
This research project is directed at the problems encountered by resource-limited farmers and livestock producers and therefore supports the special target population of small, socially-disadvantaged, and underserved producers. ARS Grazinglands Research Laboratory (GRL) scientists based at Langston University work closely with the staff of the Langston University Small Farmers' Outreach Center, and depend upon them to transfer technology as appropriate. ARS scientists attend the quarterly staff meetings of the Grasslands Center of Excellence and interact with the outreach specialists. The scientists participate in the field days and farmers' meetings organized by the outreach specialists, and serve as technical advisors as appropriate. During the reporting period, ARS scientists made two presentations on cool-season forage production to target farmers.