Pastured poultry and vegetable production: An integrated approach

2001 Annual Report for LS99-103

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1999: $89,800.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Region: Southern
State: Louisiana
Principal Investigator:
James McNitt
Southern University and A&M College

Pastured poultry and vegetable production: An integrated approach

Summary

Trials to assess effect of pastured poultry on crops planted after the birds, show that the optimum time for planting mustards, cucumbers and squash is 7 to 14 days after the birds have been on the area. Trials assessing the fertilizing effect of the chickens using squash and cucumber indicate that, after the birds have been on the area, conventional fertilizer application can be reduced by 50%. Replications of these trials are underway. Cooperating farmers have used a variety of vegetables. These data are being analyzed.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The objectives of this project are to:

Determine the effect of the manure on plant performance at various times after the pastured poultry have been on the area;

To determine the response of soil fertility and crop yields to manure from previously pastured poultry at the Southern University Horticulture Farm and on producers farms;

To carry out economic analyses of the system; and

To develop information for producers regarding economic advantages and cultural practices relative to growing vegetables in association with pastured poultry, to recruit new pastured poultry and vegetable producers, and to involve producer organizations in promotion of the program.

Accomplishments/Milestones

A Fall and two Spring experiments for Objective 1 have been completed on the Southern University Horticulture Farm with the second Fall experiment currently in the ground. The first trial was carried out in the Fall of 1999 using mustards planted 1, 7, 14 or 21 days after the birds had been on the area. The area was tilled to incorporate the manure the day after the birds were moved from each plot. These preliminary data suggested that the best response was obtained if the crop was planted two weeks after the birds were moved although the manure from the pastured birds was not sufficient to provide adequate crop yields. The Spring trials were carried out in May 2000 using cucumbers and in 2001 using squash. The best yields of cucumbers were from plots planted 7 and 14 days after the birds, For squash, the best yields were obtained 7 days after the birds were on the area. These data are currently being analyzed. The Fall 2000 crop was mustards, but was lost due to inadequate fertility and insect damage. The Fall 2001 crop is collards and will be harvested in early December.

In Spring 2000 squash was used on the Southern University Horticulture Farm to assess the effects of fertilizer treatments on crop growth (Objective 2 – chicken manure (CM) only, CM supplemented by conventional fertilizers, CM supplemented by organic fertilizers, and control plots with conventional fertilizers only.) The best yields were obtained from the plots with chicken manure plus half the recommended amount of conventional fertilizer. A similar trial was carried out in Spring 2001 with cucumbers. The best yields were obtained with the CM supplemented by half the conventional fertilizers and CM supplemented by half the organic fertilizers. In the Fall of 2000 a similar trial was laid out using mustards but was lost due to inadequate fertility and insect damage. The Fall 2001 trial using collards is in the ground and will be harvested in early December.

Eleven farmers were recruited for Objective 2. Of these, five carried through and reared birds. Three planted a variety of vegetable crops behind the birds. One planting of pumpkins was destroyed by fungal diseases. The two remaining farmers kept good records of their birds and crops and will be the basis for a case study report of the project. The other three poultry producers were successful with the birds and their results will also be included in the summary of that part of the study.

It has become apparent during this study that, in southern Louisiana, the timing of the birds on pasture and the planting of the crops must be carefully coordinated to ensure that the crops are planted at the correct time. For example, if birds are placed on pasture at two to three weeks old in mid-April when the first good cover of grass is available, most farmers will not plant until the birds are removed six to seven weeks later. This means planting in early June which is close to being too late for a number of crops. Similarly, if birds are placed on pasture in early September when it begins to get cooler, the crops cannot be planted until the middle of October which may be too late for winter gardens. In addition, planting a short season crop seven to fourteen days after bird removal may not leave enough time between manure application and crop maturity. For example, the new organic standards require 90-120 days between manure application and crop harvest because of health concerns.

The four farmer participants listed above intend to repeat the trials in the Spring of 2002. Once these have been completed, the economic analysis will be carried out. Preparation of publications for farmer use and scientific journals will begin in 2002 and will be completed before the end of the year.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Our farmer cooperators have been quite successful with their birds and most intend to continue production after the end of the trial. In addition, the project has been watched closely by other clientele and, as a result of our work, several farmers are going to try pastured poultry production although they are not interested in combining it with vegetable production.

Farmers in Louisiana are impressed by the day-range model of pastured poultry production. This has great advantages because it provides a means to get the birds off the wet ground during rainy periods. It also provides predator control if it is needed. One producer has successfully completed one batch of birds with a day range unit and will try another through the winter. Three other producers are building their houses and will start in the near future.

Collaborators:

Jeffery Gillespie

jmgille@lsu.edu
Associate Professor
Louisiana State University
Dept. of Agricultural Economics
101 Agriculture Administration Building
Baton Rouge, , LA 70803
Office Phone: 2253882759
Osborne Christon

Cooperator
1196 Snow Road
Palmetto, LA 71358
Office Phone: 3186234993
Arlen Guillory

aguillory@sus.edu
Ass’t Livestock Show Manager
Southern University
Box 10010 SUBR
Baton Rouge, LA 70-81
Office Phone: 2257712232
Maria Davidson

Cooperator
12798 Muse Ln.
Clinton, LA 70722
Rodney Mathews

Cooperator
P.O. Box 914
Ferriday, LA 71334
Office Phone: 3187578973
Yemane Ghebreiyessus

yghebrei@subr.edu
Associate Professor
Southern University
Box 11170 SUBR
Baton Rouge, LA 70813
Office Phone: 2257713111
Owusu Bandele

obandele@subr.edu
Professor
Southern Unviersity
Box 11170 SUBR
Baton Rouge, LA 70813
Office Phone: 2257712262
Haney Green

Cooperator
1524 Dupre Road
Opelousas, LA 70570
Office Phone: 3375436626