Warm-season grass selection to balance forage production and wildlife management needs

Project Overview

FNE12-740
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2012: $8,179.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: Tuckaway Farm
Region: Northeast
State: New Hampshire
Project Leader:
Charles Cox
Tuckaway Farm

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Agronomic: general hay and forage crops
  • Additional Plants: native plants

Practices

  • Animal Production: stockpiled forages
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, continuous cropping, no-till
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, habitat enhancement, soil stabilization, wildlife
  • Production Systems: permaculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil chemistry, soil physics, soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    Conservation organizations and land trusts are now beginning to realize that they need to be able to work with local farmers in order to manage their properties for both food and fiber production and for wildlife habitats, particularly the intensively used edges of fields. The need is to establish a productive hay crop that will make the harvesting process pay for itself and for the mowing of the non-productive fields and edges in order to maintain edge habitat for wildlife. This need to have productive agricultural management be compatible with wildlife management, particularly on properties that are protected by conservation easements, is growing. There are are many acres of farmland that require regular mowing and maintenance to remain open, and there is an increasing need for productive agricultural land in New England. The establishment of warm season grasses that can be harvested later in the season can provide both a nutritionally useful crop and a safe grassland nesting area for the early summer. The normal cool season grass hay crop in New England needs to be harvested early in the summer, which can conflict with nesting season. More local research needs to be done in this area to determine the most appropriate varieties of warm season grasses for this area, as well as lower tillage organic methods for establishing them on conservation lands. This project will take place on the the Ford property, which was given to the Town of Lee by the estate of Joseph Ford, who was a Selectman for over 30 years. Joe placed a conservation easement on the property in 2008 in order to preserve the land primarily for wildlife, with the use of the fields by a local farmer to produce enough income to pay for the mowing of the fields on a regular periodic basis. This property and project provides a good testbed, not only for establishing grass species recommendations, but also for outreach and organizational partnerships.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    For this project there will be two planting methods and four seed mixes to evaluate varieties including Eastern Gamagrass, Indian Grass, Smooth Cordgrass, Big Bluestem, and Switchgrass.

    There will be four primary stages in the project –
    Stage 1) Planning and procurement of appropriate varieties and amendments
    Stage 2) Plot layout, planting and treatments
    Stage 3) Observation and data collection
    Stage 4) Analysis reporting and outreach

    Stage One: Planning and Procurement of Appropriate Varieties and Amendments

    March-April 2012
    Stage one will involve coordination with the our UNH Cooperative Extension Technical Adviser and contact with agronomists at NRCS, representatives from Fish and Game, Nature Conservancy, NH Audubon, and the town of Lee Conservation and Agricultural Commissions.

    Stage Two: Plot Layout, Planting and Treatments and Demonstration Workshops
    May-mid June 2012

    In this stage the plots will be measured and flagged to produce at least 24 16’x150 plots with at least 4’ gaps between the plots to facilitate mowing pathways. Layout will be a randomized block design. This stage also involves setting up the equipment for planting, doing test plating runs and seeder calibration. The fields will also need to be mowed to remove the bulk of the above ground biomass prior to planting. The plots will then be seeded with an 8’ 3ph great plains no-till drill at about 12lbs of seed per acre. Observations about equipment, amendments and sod condition will be recorded. This stage also involves alerting Cooperative Extension and the Conservation Districts, and posting the dates when this will be going on with the NH Department of Agriculture. (See attachment for plot layout and treatments)

    Stage Three: Observation and Data Collection
    June 2012-August 2013

    This stage will involve taking representative samples and recording germination dates, etc. This stage also involves hosting twilight meetings also promoted through UNH Cooperative Extension, the County Conservation Districts and the NH Department of Agriculture.

    Stage Four: Analysis Reporting and Outreach

    June 2012 – August 2013

    In this final stage the data will be tabulated and organized along with photos to develop posters and literature that can be disseminated to other farmers through Conservation Districts, Cooperative Extension, NRCS and agricultural web sites and publications such as the NH Farm Bureau Communicator and the web site of GreenStart, which will have capacity to publish research projects as short slide shows.

    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.