In Missouri and the other central US states of the “Fescue Belt”, grazing management of Tall Fescue pastures includes management of fescue seed heads. Endophyte infected tall fescue has the highest concentration of the toxic alkaloids in the seed. Removing these heads reduces the negative animal health effects of grazing infected fescue. For many producers, this involves “clipping” pastures with rotary mowers. In addition to removing seed heads, the cutting/damage to upper canopy foliage stimulates additional vegetative growth for increased carrying capacity.
This study will evaluate the ability of lower cost of operation roller crimpers as an alternative to rotary mowing for seed head control.
Year one data has been collected on the impact to seed head counts and forage yield. Forage quality lab work has not completed, so there are no results to report at this time. With the second year of the study beginning this Spring, the information gathered in year one has to be considered as preliminary. As such, no journal articles or educational guidesheets have been written.
The preliminary results are encouraging that we are seeing effective forage management options not previously considered, but we must have the second year data before we can draw a conclusion.
Quantify through forage sampling:
- Degree of seed head control with rotary mowing versus crimp/rolling.
- Pasture yields by treatment.
- Nutritional value of sward by treatment.
- Per acre cost of control by treatment.
Since fescue seed heads have the highest concentration of the alkaloids impacting animal health, the treatments being evaluated are all part of a seed head reduction strategy.
The treatments are:
1) Rotary mowing (clipping) is the predominant strategy for the 3 farms participating in this study. The machinery used in clipping is expensive to operate with high-horsepower requirements.
2) Single-pass with the roller-crimper has a lower power requirement than mowing (smaller tractor needed), and has an increased operating speed for the potential to cover more acres per day.
3) Double-pass with the roller-crimper to observe any effectiveness gained over a single pass (the second pass of the double was made immediately following the first).
4) Chaparral herbicide at the label recommended 2 oz/ac rate.
5) Control with no treatment for a baseline.
Treatments were applied on April 20th (pre-boot stage of growth). Forage yield data and seed head counts were made on June 9th. Forage quality tests are currently being performed with testing for Ergovaline levels and Total Ergot Alkaloid content.
When the final results are in, we will have an understanding of how each treatment impacts total dry-matter yield and the forage quality.
The link above shows the plot layout with 5 treatments, replicated 4 times and randomized.
One-half meter, square quadrants were tossed at random, in three locations for each treatment. Seed heads were counted and totaled for the three quadrant locations. All forage with-in the quadrant was removed at the soil level. Forage was oven-dried and yield calculations made on a dry-matter basis.
The seed head data shows that:
1) Clipping and Chaparral herbicide were similar with 75% reduction in seed heads, compared to the Control.
2) One-pass with the Crimper reduced seed heads 36% compared to the Control.
The link below is a graph of the seed head counts.
The forage yield data shows that:
1) Clipping, Chaparral herbicide, and the Control had similar yield.
2) One-pass with the Crimper had the highest yield with a 13% increase over the Control.
3) Seed heads can be controlled/reduced with out the loss of forage production.
The link below is a graph of the forage yield.
Educational & Outreach Activities
The 11 consults have been with individual farm operations who wanted to know what we were finding in our study. Word-of-mouth spread about the project and producers sought the information. These 11 discussions reached 14 producers.
There have been 4 on-farm demonstrations of the equipment that reached 5 farmers and 9 ag professionals.
There have been 3 formal presentations of the preliminary data to farmer groups. These reached 90 producers and 3 ag professionals.
There has been 2 field days of the plots that reached 103 producers and 6 ag professionals.