Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center2013 Annual Report
1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
This research will develop integrated strategies to manage multifunctional agricultural landscapes that include grazing livestock, grasslands, and woodlots for optimal economic and natural resource benefits. Holistic and systems type research by nature is complex, multifaceted, and difficult to implement, but also provides a unique opportunity to target knowledge gaps and problem solve issues that might not be apparent when evaluating individual commodities or singular agricultural applications. The interdisciplinary research team will take a multifaceted, interactive approach to complex system agriculture using our expertise in animal science, forestry, agronomy, and soil science to work towards the common goal of developing technologies useful to improve production and profitability of farmers. Objective 1: Determine best management practices and overall preferred production systems for growing trees and annual/perennial crops in similar and diverse landscapes on small farms in the South Central US that are either grazed or harvested for biomass production. Subobjective 1A: Develop knowledge on practices that affect herbage-tree productivity in intensively managed stands of pine and upland hardwoods. Sub-objective 1A.1: Evaluate effects of management practices on growth of pine and hardwood species. Sub-objective 1A.2: Document responses of alley-cropped herbage productivity as affected by plantation design. Subobjective 1B: Determine nutritive value of woody and herbaceous browse in an emulated organic silvopasture. Objective 2: Determine best management practices for grazing systems, for small farms in the South Central US that will improve forage production and/or livestock production while enhancing on-farm sustainability. Subobjective 2A: Determine management practices for organic, grass-fed, and conventional livestock to minimize off-farm inputs while maximizing production and enhancing soil and forage attributes. Subobjective 2B: Determine best management practices for efficient nutrient use for pastures. Subobjective 2C: Determine the long-term effects of overgrazing, rotational grazing, haying, and buffer strips on nutrient and sediment runoff from pastures. Objective 3: Develop improved ruminant animal management systems to enhance the productivity, efficiency and viability of animal production on low input farms.
1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Sustainability will be achieved for small and mid-sized farms by increasing conventional, organic, and grass-fed beef cattle, sheep, and goat productivity on forage-based and silvopasture systems. The influence of conventional (strategic use of anthelmintics) and nonchemical (forages, including sericea lespedeza, and copper oxide wire particle administration) parasite control on production efficiency (number of lambs born and weaned per ewe) of sheep will be determined. Best management practices (management intensive grazing systems and forage combinations) will be determined for organic, grass-fed, and conventional beef and sheep production, on especially low input farms, to minimize off-farm inputs while maximizing production efficiencies and enhancing soil and forage attributes. Experiments will determine environmental impact of subsurface application of poultry litter on grass pastures. A long-term study utilizes watersheds to determine the impacts of various pasture management strategies (rotational grazing, overgrazing, haying, tree buffers) on pasture hydrology and nutrient runoff. Experiments will be conducted to evaluate effects of management practices, including fertilization and integration with livestock, on growth of pine and hardwood species. Responses of alley-cropped herbage productivity as affected by plantation design will be examined. The relative nutritive value of forages and trees in a bristly locust silvopasture will be determined.
3. Progress Report:
Genetic markers for parasite resistance in sheep and breeding values continue to be developed. A long-term experiment at the USDA, ARS Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center in Booneville, AR, and at Louisiana State University compared sheep production (lamb weight gains) using conventional parasite control vs. control with copper oxide wire particles or sericea lespedeza. Experiments were conducted to determine effects of sericea lespedeza pellets on lamb and goat kid weight gain, parasite control, and status of mineral composition in the animal and parasite. Plots are being prepared for an experiment to examine effects of forage and management on forage-finished beef. Research was conducted to examine the integration of wood fiber, forage, and livestock into temperate silvopasture practices to improve farm profitability and optimize environmental benefits. Field studies are continuing to determine the ability of a subsurface applicator (subsurfer) to increase crop production while minimizing nutrient losses and controlling odors from poultry litter applied to perennial pastures and other no-till agricultural production systems by comparing to conventional surface applications. Treatments have been re-applied to constructed watersheds for runoff and forage production studies in Arkansas, and samples have been collected for analyses. New subsurfer prototypes have been used to apply poultry litter under the surface of research plots in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Other studies have been initiated in Arkansas to determine the effects on soil quality and nutrient concentrations in the soil water zone when poultry litter is subsurface applied. A study has also been initiated to determine the effects of subsurface applying commercial inorganic nitrogen fertilizer to perennial pastures. Further design modifications are being developed to improve subsurfer performance. Early results from long-term studies on grazing management have indicated that soil erosion increased as grazing intensity increased, but the soil losses were mitigated by utilizing buffer strips.