Improving Forage Production and Quality with Native Legumes in Grazed Warm-Season Grass Stands
In 2011, we completed our research activities, and we continued our outreach efforts for farmers, grazing specialists, and researchers, and expanded to include natural resource professionals.
To evaluate native legume establishment and forage production and quality across a diversity gradient, we completed management and sampling during the 2010 field season.
We continued outreach to the diverse audiences.
- Plant community data was collected in diverse prairies in June 2011, completing sampling efforts; and
data analyses were completed, reported, and discussed in the form of two chapters in a master’s thesis (these chapters are also the basis of manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals).
- Approximately 30 graziers, grazing specialists and natural resource professionals from around Wisconsin attended a presentation at GrassWorks annual conference on research goals and results;
we presented research goals and results to approximately 40 ecologists from across the country at the Ecological Society of America’s annual conference;
we reached a key audience of natural resource professionals who work with private landowners in southern Wisconsin by presenting a seminar at the Aldo Leopold Foundation; and
we presented and interpreted data analysis in an M.S. exit seminar that reached university faculty, staff, and graduate students from UW-Madison and the USDA Dairy Forage Research
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
In southern Wisconsin, native grasslands were virtually eliminated from farmland by the 1930s. Very few farmers have knowledge of native warm season grasses, native legumes, or other plants that make up prairie plant communities, and there is a lack of traditional or scientifically-based knowledge relevant to their management for agricultural production.
Our experience and data suggest that native warm season grasses have adequate productivity, quality, and resilience to be useful to farmers in southern Wisconsin, but more research and education is required to develop a sufficient knowledge base to reduce risk to farmers interested in utilizing native grasses in their managed grazing operations. Native grasslands restored for the Conservation Reserve Program and other conservation goals can provide many opportunities for future research into integrating livestock grazing and conservation in the Upper Midwest.