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.
During late August 2004, plots were no-till drilled behind either banded applications of glyphosate herbicide. These included perennial ryegrass, orchardgrass, and festulolium. Orchardgrass was also seeded with alfalfa in where existing sod was killed with both banded and broadcasted glyphosate applications. Additional plots of grasses and legumes were also planted into broadcast sprayed plots for general observations of winterhardiness and growth vigor. Measurements of the above will commence during April 2005.
Producers have been 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.
Field days will be held at several farms during the grazing season so that other producers can seed firsthand the results of the various materials and managements being investigated in this project. We will also encourage the host producers to share activities and management practices that might be unique to their operations.
Only six of the originally identified eight farmers were able to participate in the planting of plots for this study. An additional farmer was identified as plot planting commenced to expand the number of locations to seven. All farms are located five-county area in north central Pennsylvania. The classes of livestock represented by these operations includes dairy, beef, and sheep. The sites on which liming applications were necessary, based on soil tests taken during summer 2003, received lime during late 2003 and early 2004.
The forage stands at six of the seven sites appeared satisfactory during evaluations conducted during November 2004. The poor establishment at the seventh site appears to be due to shallow seed placement. This site may not be useful to the project.
Early spring evaluations will be made of all plots for winterhardiness and growth vigor soon after break of winter dormancy. Extension personnel expect to organize one or two field days during this time to highlight these findings.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The cooperating producers are very interested in learning about the new practices being investigated during the project. They also are closely watching to determine how the different species that were planted as part of a side study will overwinter and withstand the hoof traffic associated with grazing animals.
These producers are active (vocal) during extension and other producer meetings. Local extension personnel intend to use their desire to share ideas and raise issues of importance to the profitability of livestock agriculture to participate in (and perhaps lead) discussions related to the grazing management in general and this project in particular.