Reducing herbicide usage, minimizing grazing down time, and improving pasture productivity with banded application of herbicide during pasture renovation
This project will investigate the possible economic and biological benefits to livestock producers who graze their livestock on pastures. Numerous producers who graze on relatively low-value acreage often manage their land less intensively than those who graze higher value land. Production per acre of either forage or animal products could be greatly improved by renovating (interseeding) some of the newer, more productive species and varieties of forages. Historically, renovation has consisted of either tillage or non-selective herbicides to destroy existing vegetation prior to planting new materials. These practices are often viewed as costing more than they will return, or as environmentally undesirable, especially on sloping land that may be predisposed to erosion after total vegetation destruction from tillage or use of herbicides. Banded applications of herbicides that might use only one-half the full rate of herbicide could be desireable as they would greatly reduce the cost of the operations and allow some living vegetation to persist. These remaining plants would greatly reduce erosion potential. Producers around the region have experimented with band applications of herbicide ahead of each double disk opener on a no-till drill with reportedly good success. However, most of those observations were associated with spring renovations of pastures. This trial will investigate the potential for successful renovations of pasture with banded applications of herbicide during late summer plantings.
Producers will be engaged in the research process and the outreach activities associated with this pasture renovation projects. The expectation is that inclusion of farmers in all phases will increase the attention of other farmers and their adoption of the more promising findings.
Ideally, several dozen producers who might otherwise choose to do nothing will improve the quality and quantity of forage on offer in their pastures because they were encouraged by something they learned while observing this project. Increasing animal production and profitability though improving the pastures on which those livestock are produced will enhance the sustainability of the farm enterprise.
Eight livestock producers have been identified in a six-county area in north central Pennsylvania to participate in the on-farm study of pasture renovation. The classes of livestock represented by these operations includes dairy, beef, and sheep. Sites on each farm have been identified and all have agreed to participate in field days/producer meetings to share progress and findings. Soil samples were pulled for soil pH and nutrient analyses. Unfortunately, nearly half of the sites were found to have soil pH values that are somewhat or very acidic for establishment of forage legumes. It was determined that to attempt to establish legumes into these conditions would be undesireable.
SARE was notified of the situation and an extension of the project was granted. Liming materials were applied during late summer and fall of 2003 to correct the problems. Seedings that were to occur during the late summer of 2003 will now be suspended until the late summer of 2004.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
As a result of determining that many pasture soils in the area are in need of lime, producers and their advisors were reaquainted with the important and critical practice of soil testing and liming when necessary. It would be foolish to spend the large amounts of money for seed and planting to later realize that the results from such an activity would have been better if attention had been given to basic soil testing beforehand.