Biofertilization of Bermudagrass: A step toward sustainable forage production

Project Overview

LS19-307
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $221,115.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Auburn University
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Leanne Dillard
Auburn University

Commodities

  • Agronomic: hay
  • Animals: bovine

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management
  • Pest Management: biological control

    Proposal abstract:

    Sustainable production of livestock from both grazed and conserved forage production is critical to economic and environmental viability of the livestock industry. Nitrogen fertilizer accounts for the majority of variable-input costs associated with forage production, and potentially can negatively impact soil, water, and air resources. Bermudagrass is an extremely drought-tolerant and persistent warm-season perennial grass that is used widely throughout the southeastern U.S. for hay production and grazing. It is also very responsive to N fertilization and can produce more than 10 Mg of biomass per hectare. Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria are beneficial soil microbes applied to agricultural and horticultural crops as inoculants. Growth promotion from PGPR application can result from N fixation, phosphate solubilization or internal changes in hormone signaling pathways associated with some strains. Preliminary data indicate that PGPR may also hold promise as an alternative to synthetic N fertilizer for biofertilization and forage quality enhancement of bermudagrass for livestock.

    The objectives of this study are to evaluate plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria for use in hay and grazed forage systems on six Alabama farms to determine its effectiveness as a N-fertilizer supplement or replacement. Measurements of forage yield, quality, insect damage and spring green-up will be taken throughout the growing season over two years. Two field days and a cumulative, hands-on workshop will be held over a 3-year period to disseminate the finding to bermudagrass producers throughout the state. Findings from the study will also be published using established social media outlets and online websites. Extension and peer-reviewed articles will be submitted during Year 3 of the proposed project. Transfer of knowledge to producers and stakeholder groups will be assessed to evaluate the impact of the Extension/outreach program. New knowledge gained from this project could contribute toward significant economic savings and improved efficiency of forage nutrient management in the future, and suggest potentially fruitful areas of new basic and translational research on beneficial plant X microbe interactions.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Determine forage yield and quality of ‘Russell’ bermudagrass fertilized with Blend 20, Blend 20 + N-fertilizer, N-fertilizer, or no fertilizer and either hayed or grazed by beef cattle.
    • Assess insect damage in ‘Russell’ bermudagrass fertilized with Blend 20, Blend 20 + N-fertilizer, N-fertilizer, or no fertilizer and either hayed or grazed by beef cattle.
    • Determine the differences in initiation of spring growth in ‘Russell’ bermudagrass fertilized with Blend 20, Blend 20 + N-fertilizer, N-fertilizer, or no fertilizer and either hayed or grazed by beef cattle.
    • Disseminate the knowledge gained to a broader audience of stakeholder by organizing producer-driven regional workshops, development of Extension publications, social media posts, and publishing of peer-reviewed abstracts and manuscripts.
    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.