- Agronomic: general hay and forage crops, grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Animals: bovine
- Animal Production: feed/forage, feed formulation, feed rations, range improvement, stockpiled forages, winter forage
- Crop Production: continuous cropping, tissue analysis, terraces
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns
- Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement, soil stabilization
- Pest Management: chemical control, field monitoring/scouting, physical control, precision herbicide use
- Production Systems: holistic management, permaculture
- Soil Management: soil analysis, soil quality/health
The Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Tennessee Valley Authority is persuading landowners to plant more native grass species for livestock forage and wildlife food and habitat, but there is very little research data available comparing the establishment cost, annual maintenance cost, annual yield per acre, and nutrient content / availability of native grasses and commercial variety grasses, such as Bahiagrass, primarily as a hay crop. The advantages of native grasses are that there are several different varieties adapted to grow in the many different soil types of the South. Also, there are varieties primarily for livestock forage, wildlife food and habitat, and varieties for both livestock and wildlife. The different varieties can be mixed together and perform well as a mixture in the same field. The primary affect on the sustainability of agriculture in the south is that native grasses can provide forage for livestock and is a better food and habitat source than commercial grass varieties for wildlife. This makes it easier for livestock and wildlife live in symbiosis. Native grasses are suppose to be easier and cheaper to maintain which lowers the producer’s annual production cost while at the same time improving wildlife population. Planting more native grasses should improve the image of the grass farmer to the urban population because of the benefits of native grasses.
Project objectives from proposal:
I will plant four acres in a two way combination of the native grass species Switchgrass and Little Bluestem which has been recommended as the best combination to use for the comparison trail. These two species where also those determined to be the best suited for the area in which they are to be planted I will plant four acres in a two way combination of the native grass species Switchgrass and. I will use an existing four acre stand of Bahiagrass that is in the same location and soil type.
I will compare the native grasses to the Bahiagrass for both nutrient value and total yield per acre for both green forage and cured hay. I will check the green forage on a monthly basis and check the cured hay after each cutting. I will then do an annual report for the duration of the grant.
I will follow the recommendations for native grasses that is in the Mississippi State University Extension publication 2435 for the native grasses (http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p2435.pdf) and the Information sheet 843 for the Bahiagrass, (http://msucares.com/pubs/infosheets/is0843.pdf)
I will send forage samples of the green forage, taken by random clippings, and of the dried forage from the baled hay, taken with a hay probe, to Mississippi State University for the nutrient values of the native grasses and of the Bahiagrass. This will be used to compare the nutrient values of each and the differences in the nutrient value based on moisture content.
I will measure the forage yields of the green forage by using the methods outlined in Mississippi State University Extension Publication 2458, (http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p2458.pdf) which describes the Clipping, Weighing, And Drying Method where a 2 square feet object is randomly tossed several times throughout the field, then clip the forage in the area and place it into a paper bag, weigh it, then dry it to determine dry matter content of each. I will also measure the yield of cured hay per acre by randomly weighing 10 bales to get an average weight per bale then count the number of bales produced per cutting multiplied by the average weight per bale to determine the total yield.
Soil samples will be taken in March, 2011. Lime and Fertilizer will be applied by mid-April, starting in 2011. Native grasses will be planted mid-April, 2011, weather permitting. Green forage samples will be taken at the end of each month during the growing season for the duration of the grant. Hay will be cut and sampled during the growing season when the forage reaches the appropriate recommended height. For Bahiagrass this is eight inches in height or every five weeks, which ever comes first. For Native grasses the recommended height is two feet. Hay cuttings will vary and is dependent on weather conditions throughout the growing season. Annual data will be summarized and compiled at the end of each growing season.