- Agronomic: cotton, rye, grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Animals: bovine
- Animal Production: grazing management, grazing - rotational, winter forage, feed/forage
- Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops, double cropping, conservation tillage
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study, agricultural finance
- Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems
- Soil Management: organic matter
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, sustainability measures
The larger issue in our area is that our soil is low in organic matter (OM), organic nitrogen (N), and water holding capacity. However, this problem can be greatly improved by using winter cover crops and incorporating these winter crops into integrated livestock-crop production systems. The problem that we hope to address in this project is actually multi-faceted. In the interest of being brief, however, these problems can be summarized as follows: 1) Few growers in our area of Southeast Georgia realize that growing a winter cover crop can greatly increase their soil's OM, organic N, and water holding capacity. 2) The downside to using winter cover crops is that the crops have to be turned under, mowed, or harvested in order for spring planting operations to occur in a timely fashion. 3) The majority of those growers that do realize the benefits of growing winter cover crops do not grow them because they do not perceive an economic advantage. 4) Meanwhile, record prices for high quality feedstuffs for forage-based livestock production systems in the area (along with relatively low prices for milk and meat) have caused conventional dairy producers, pasture-based dairy producers, and many beef cattle operations to try to source more of their high quality feedstuffs at the local level. 5) Though it is impractical to graze many of these crop fields (i.e., no fencing, no water sources for livestock, the fields are too far removed from the milking parlor, etc.), the forage produced by the winter annual cover crops could be conserved. New forage conservation technologies such as haylage/baled silage enable an easy and cost-effective method for harvesting winter forage crops in a timely fashion. 6) Row crop producers who may be interested in harvesting their winter annual cover crops as a cash crop for their neighboring dairy or beef producers need information on expectations of crop growth rate, when the crop should be harvested to meet yield and/or quality goals, and how to evaluate the fair market value for the forage based on its nutritive quality. Winter cover crops (specifically triticale, annual ryegrass, and crimson clover) that are harvested as a forage crop can accomplish several goals of sustainable agriculture (many of which are specifically aligned with “Focus Areas” in this Producer Grant Proposal program). 1) It can build soil organic matter (SOM) and protect from soil erosion during the winter months. 2) It can provide an alternative crop of high quality forage that can be sold to local dairy and beef producers. 3) It can increase the sustainability of existing farming practices by improving cash flow on the farm, decrease the risk to the local environment, and enhance the sense of community on the local level.
Project objectives from proposal:
) Helping to create linkages between row crop producers who may want to produce some of this high quality forage from their winter cover crops and the dairy and beef producers who may need it.
Our objectives are:
1) Use our farm to demonstrate the management practices necessary to produce a winter annual cover/forage crop of annual ryegrass (ARG), triticale (TRI), annual ryegrass + crimson clover (ACC), and triticale + crimson clover (TCC).
2) Monitor and disseminate information about changes in soil OM, organic N, bulk density, and water holding capacity in areas planted to ARG, TRI, ACC, and TCC relative to a control where no cover crop was planted.
3) Collect and disseminate data on crop growth rate, yield expectations, and forage quality relationships to different growth stages for ARG, TRI, ACC, and TCC.
4) Hold a producer-to-producer educational meeting on our farm where we show our neighbors and fellow producers our data from objectives 2 and 3, demonstrate our harvest methods, reveal the market outlets that we have developed for our winter annual cover crops and the cash flow for this enterprise.
5) Help our neighbors and fellow crop producers develop linkages to livestock producers who need the high quality crop.