Submitted to: American Society of Agronomy Monograph Series
Publication Type: Monograph
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/23/2003
Publication Date: 8/20/2004
Citation: Sanderson, M.A., Brink, G.E., Higgins, K.F., Naugle, D.E. 2004. Chapter 11: Alternative uses of warm-season forage grasses. In L. Moser, B. Burson, and L. Sollenberger (ed. Wam-Season Grasses. American Society of Agronomy Monograph Series. 45:389-416. Interpretive Summary: The predominant use of warm-season grasses in agriculture is for livestock forage. Warm-season forage grasses, however, can be a part of effective solutions for the environmental management of agroecosystems. One can envision a farm of the future where energy needs are met with renewable fuels from long-term stands of warm-season grasses; the producer is credited for the carbon stored in the soil under these long-term sods; dense sods effectively retain all nutrients from surface water runoff and eliminate leaching; and mosaics of remnant tallgrass prairies with interspersed planted grasslands maintain or enhance landscape biodiversity. Achieving this vision will require innovative research, aggressive conservation programs, and a profitable agriculture.
Technical Abstract: Forage crops, including warm-season grasses, are versatile, and increasingly, farmers are looking for alternative uses for their traditional crops. Because of several unique characteristics, warm-season forage grasses have excellent potential for bioenergy cropping, soil conservation, waste nutrient management, water quality protection, and wildlife habitat. This chapter summarizes the state of the knowledge for alternative uses of warm-season forage grasses. These alternative uses sometime require different management practices than for traditional forage crops. The use of warm-season forage grasses as an herbaceous energy crop may provide farmers an opportunity to diversify their farming systems and produce an alternative cash crop. Warm-season perennial grasses are also valuable components of soil and water conservation practices. They are effective as windbreaks for reducing wind erosion, as a vegetative barrier for trapping sediment and reducing water erosion, as a filter strip for slowing surface runoff and reducing herbicide movement, and as a buffer strip for protecting riparian zones. Intensive crop production represents a practical approach to nutrient management. Perennial forage crops harvested as hay are an ideal means of removing nutrients contained in the soil or added with manure and generally have the lowest nutrient losses due to runoff and erosion. Native and planted warm-season grasslands provide habitat for a diverse array of grassland wildlife. Future conservation of remnant warm-season grasslands remains uncertain unless new and aggressive conservation programs are initiated.