Bridging the Fall Forage Gap with Stockpiled Limpograss Along the Southern Gulf Coast

Progress report for OS21-142

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2021: $19,981.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Florida - NFREC
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Jose Dubeux, Jr.
University of Florida - NFREC
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Project Information

Abstract:

Stockpiling limpograss is the proposed solution to reduce the forage shortage in the Fall. Grazing stockpiled limpograss is also more sustainable than conserved forages such as hay or baleage. These conserved feedstuffs require greater use of inputs, including machinery, fossil fuel, and fertilizers. Limpograss has unique characteristics including a slow decrease on its digestibility compared with other warm-season perennial grass, being a perfect candidate for stockpiling. Limpograss is less light sensitive compared with other warm-season perennial grasses such as bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum Flügge) or bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.]. As a result, if there are warmer periods within the cool season, limpograss starts greening up, enhancing forage nutritive value. Limpograss can also help to bridge the Spring gap, when bahiagrass and bermudagrass are still dormant. Limpograss is one of the warm-season perennial grasses that have the earliest growth in the Spring. Therefore, establishing limpograss along the Gulf Coast can extend the grazing season and reduce off-farm inputs, increasing sustainability of beef farm operations.

Because lack of planting material and lack of knowledge on how to manage limpograss along FL Panhandle is one important ‘bottleneck’ for adoption, we propose to establish Gibtuck limpograss on three producer’s sites along the FL Panhandle and perform management trials at each location. This will disseminate planting material across different locations along the region and increase adoption. Once the limpograss is established, we will execute on-farm small plot trials assessing limpograss growth and nutritive value using different stockpiling periods. This will generate information to manage limpograss along FL Panhandle as well as produce planting material for further multiplication.

Project Objectives:

Three producers strategically located along the FL Panhandle will participate in this project. Planting material of Gibtuck limpograss is available at UF IFAS NFREC in Marianna and will be used to establish producer’s field in this project. Each producer will provide 1-acre field to establish the limpograss. Prior to planting, we will collect soil samples from 0-16”and analyze for soil fertility and soil physics. Producers will prepare the soil prior to planting. Limpograss stolons will be harvested and planted in the same day, at a rate of 1,500 lb/acre. The planting material (stolons) will be spread along the prepared land, disked in, and rolled/cultipacked. Fertilizer will be applied following IFAS recommendation. Planting is planned to happen in May-June 2021.

 

After limpograss establishment, plots will be staged by late August to early September to start stockpiling periods. Harvested limpograss will be used as planting material according to producer’s needs. On the planted area, we will install a small-plot trial with different stockpiling periods (treatments): 30, 60, 90, 120 days. Each plot will measure 6 x 15 ft and will be replicated four times. Treatments will be allocated in a randomized complete block design. These three on-farm trials will generate information on herbage accumulation and nutritive value of stockpiled limpograss along these different deferment periods. The trial will be repeated in 2022.

 

The central portion of the plot will be harvested using a collecting flail mower. All forage in the harvested area will be weighed (fresh weight) and recorded. Subsamples will be collected for DM determination and for nutritive value. Subsamples will be weighed before and after drying at 131˚F for 48 h in an air-circulating dryer for DM (131˚F) determination. Samples will be milled to pass through a 2-mm mesh using a Wiley Mill (Model 4, Thomas-Wiley Laboratory Mill, Thomas Scientific). Samples will be analyzed for in vitro digestible organic matter (IVDOM) and crude protein (CP). The IVDOM will be determined using the protocol described by Moore and Mott (1974). Nitrogen concentration will be analyzed using the Dumas dry combustion method. Prior to analysis, samples will be ball milled in a Mixer Mill (MM 400, Retsch, Haan, Germany) at 25 Hz for 9 min. Ball-milled samples will be used to determine total N concentrations by dry combustion using an elemental analyzer (Vario Micro cube, Elementar, Germany). Total N concentration will be multiplied by 6.25 to calculate crude protein.

 

Data will be analyzed using the SAS statistical package and the proc mixed procedure. Stockpiling period and farm site will be considered fixed effect, and replication within each farm and years considered random effect. Least square means will be separated using the PDIFF procedure from SAS and significance declared at P < 0.05.

 

The outreach plan is described in the specific section later in the document.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Dr. Liza Garcia (Researcher)
  • Ricky Hendricks - Producer
  • Howard Hodge - Producer
  • Mark Mauldin
  • Doug Mayo
  • Josh Riley - Producer

Research

Materials and methods:

We established limpograss in four farms: Mrs. Hodges, Hasting, Riley, and Mauldin. Planting occurred June 10th, 2021 for all four farms. We added Mrs. Hasting and Mauldin among our cooperators since Mr. Hendricks could not plant limpograss in the first year because of his duties during the cropping season. He is planning to establish the limpograss in the summer 2022. In addition to the farmers, the Alabama Extension System also planted limpograss in two of their experimental Stations. South Carolina Extension System is planning to establish during the summer 2022. Below is a table with key dates along the four cooperating farms:

Producer

Planting

Staging

1st harvest

2nd harvest

3rd harvest

4th harvest

Mr. Hodges

6/10/21

9/6/21

10/4/21

11/1/21

11/29/21

12/27/21

Ben Hasting

6/10/21

9/17/21

10/15/21

11/12/21

12/10/21

1/7/22

Josh Riley

6/10/21

10/1/21

10/29/21

11/26/21

12/24/21

1/21/22

Mark Mauldin

6/10/21

10/1/21

10/29/21

11/26/21

12/24/21

1/21/22

We provided fertilizer for all participating farmers. We pulled soil samples from all four farms and recommended applying 60 lb N, 30 lb P2O5, and 60 lb K2O per acre. We provided fertilizer 20-10-20 to farmers. There were problems with weed infestation in some of the farms, and year 1 was considered an establishment year. We are working closely with farmer cooperators to manage the plots in year 2. We did collect data in all harvests mentioned above and determined forage mass and analyzed for crude protein and digestibility. 

Research results and discussion:

As indicated in the methods section, we performed four harvests in the established limpograss, and forage mass increased from 692 kg DM/ha in the first harvest to 1,463 kg DM/ha in the last harvest (average of four farms). This was considered an establishment year and there were large variability among farms. At two cooperators (Riley and Mauldin), livestock entered in the area and grazed the plots, therefore, the herbage mass does not represent the growth during the period for those farms. The plan ahead is to stage and fertilize the plots in the Spring and multiply for planting material at the participating farms. In August, plots will be staged again for the stockpiling period. We plan to add another farmer in the Summer 2022 (Hendrick).

Participation Summary
4 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

10 Consultations
2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Journal articles
2 Published press articles, newsletters
5 Tours
1 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

8 Farmers
5 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

The on-farm research will be conducted jointly among state-wide forage extension faculty, county extension faculty, and farmers. Involvement of each of these groups is anticipated during field assessments and at the field day. A field day will be organized on at least one of the participating farms in Year 2. In addition, a participating farmer panel will be included in the program of one of the extension livestock conferences organized by the FL Panhandle livestock group. At this meeting, cooperating producers will describe the results from their farm and what they have learned for the benefit of other producers. In addition, faculty members involved will present the results at extension workshops and agent in-service trainings at the end of Year 1, showing preliminary results, and at the end of Year 2. Fact sheets will be developed through the EDIS system of University of Florida and they will become available online for a large audience. Scientific results will be submitted to peer-reviewed journals and presented in annual meetings of professional societies (ASA-CSSA-SSSA). Because the outreach component will occur mainly after the first year of results, we do not expect to have issues with COVID-19, since new vaccines are expected to become available in December 2020.  

Learning Outcomes

5 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation

Project Outcomes

5 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
2 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

Stockpiled limpograss can bridge the forage gap during the Fall. This will reduce the need to feed conserved forages such as hay and/or silage, which demand machinery, fossil fuel, and greater fertilizer inputs because of removal of forage and less efficient nutrient cycling. Considering the current price of fossil fuel and industrial fertilizer, adoption of stockpiled limpograss might be a cost-saving opportunity for producers with benefits to producers. Our project established limpograss in four farms from cooperators and we provided planting material for Alabama and South Carolina. Producers from Louisiana and Mississippi already contacted us and they are coming to pick up planting material during the summer. Deseret ranch, a large cattle company installed at FL Panhandle is also establishing limpograss in large scale for stockpiling. We have been using our 9-acre field of limpograss to provide planting material for other farmers that are not part of this project.

Recommendations:

This grant is a great opportunity to scale up technologies to farmers, who will serve as multiplicators of the knowledge. Thank you for the opportunity to participate on it.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.