Improving Irrigated Pasture Productivity and Soil Biodiversity in Oregon’s High Desert

Project Overview

FW20-358
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $20,000.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: Shine Brothers Ranch
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
John Shine
Shine Brothers Ranch

Commodities

  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), other
  • Animals: bovine

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage, pasture renovation
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research

    Proposal summary:

    Irrigated systems in Lake County are used for grazing or hay production, as primary agricultural products of the county are beef cattle and hay  (USDA Census of Agriculture, 2017).  Irrigated systems provide regular water supply for growing livestock forages on the deeper soils in the county.  Over time, soil nutrients have been depleted and perennial forage species have declined in quantity and quality.  The common mode of operation is to till up the existing pasture and establish a new one.  However, this is a cost expensive strategy with  no realized profit until the second year. 

    Our  project site is on old pasture system,  dominated by Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa Pratensis) which has formed a thatch layer and has a physiological dormancy in mid summer; so, irrigation is ineffective at producing feed for half of the growing season.  As irrigation cost is high, other strategies for increasing pasture productivity need to be employed.

    We will divide the pasture blocks (replicates) and interseed improved pasture species (Treatment 1) or a mix of cover crops (Treatment 2) . One subplot will not be overdrilled as the control (Treatment 3). Prior to planting, the site will be grazed to provide light and effective irrigation for germinating seedlings.  Following establishment of the overseeded plants, pasture will be grazed in late summer.  We will collect data on seasonal pasture biomass yields, forage nutritional quality, grazing days, soil quality, and cost of production.  We will share our trial results with farm field days, a peer reviewed fact sheet, and presentations with agricultural groups including youth.

    Project objectives from proposal:

     

    Our objectives are all attainable with our team approach, equipment on hand, and timeline we propose

    Objective Measurement Method Accountability Time Line

    Extension of grazing days 

    Cow numbers will be tracked using PastureMap software

    John will monitor cattle numbers 

    May 2020 – September 2021

    Increase soil health on pasture

    Soil quality tests pre grazing and planting (May 2020); soil quality tests post planting, and post grazing (September 2020); soil quality tests  – May 2021 and May 2022

    Fara and farm assistant will core soil samples

    May 2020 – September 2020 May 2021, may 2022

    Increase pasture biomass and productivity

    Exclosure cages per treatment area will be clipped during active growing periods and compared with control exclosure which will also be clipped

    Serkan will provide exclosure cages and John will place in field with farm assistant and Fara’s guidance.  Graduate student and Fara will clip caged areas.  Serkan will process samples to determine DM production and nutritive value

    Starting from July 2020, during active growing seasons.

    Determine if no till interseeding in existing pasture is effective long term

    Interseeded areas will be marked with a GPS and revisited in May 2021 pre cattle entry to determine perennial plant viability as well as carryover from annual plant

    Fara will GPS the interseeded areas

    June 2020 and May 2021

    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.