Organic forage production systems for organic dairies in the Southern region

2011 Annual Report for OS11-057

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2011: $14,993.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Southern
State: Tennessee
Principal Investigator:
Dr. David Butler
University of Tennessee

Organic forage production systems for organic dairies in the Southern region

Summary

In late spring 2011, we began establishment of an on-farm experiment with a certified organic dairy near Philadelphia, TN. Three forage systems [ a) annual system, b) perennial system, and c) a cool-season perennial legume overseeded with a warm-season annual grass] were established in 1-acre plots and replicated twice. Initial results suggest that all forage systems examined would have utility for organic producers, but we are still in the early stages of evaluation.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The objectives of this study are to (1) examine the performance (yield, forage quality, soil quality, grazing days, botanical composition, and economics) of three organic forage systems for the Southern region (an annual mixture, a cool-season perennial and warm-season annual mixture, and a perennial mixture) and (2) disseminate results to producers and other professionals via a producer field day, extension programming, conferences, and scientific journal publications.

Accomplishments/Milestones

In late spring 2011, we began establishment of the three forage systems [ a) annual system, b) perennial system, and c) a cool-season perennial legume overseeded with a warm-season annual grass]. Treatments were arranged in a completely randomized design, with each treatment randomly assigned to one of six 1-acre blocks and replicated twice. The annual system (a) was planted to a mixture of sorghum-sudangrass and cowpea on May 31, 2011. Ideally, treatments (b) and (c) would have first been established in the fall, but that was not possible due to the timing of the grant. To adjust for this, the perennial/annual system (c) was seeded to crabgrass on May 31, 2011 to prevent weed encroachment until fall seeding of the red clover (September 19, 2011) and late spring 2012 overseeding of crabgrass. The perennial system (b) was seeded to a mixture of sorghum-sudangrass and cowpea to provide forage and prevent weed encroachment until fall seeding of tall fescue (September 19, 2011) and overseeding of red and white clover (February 14, 2012). The annual system was seeded to a mixture of wheat and crimson clover on September 19, 2011. Soils were sampled in spring, summer, and fall of 2011 which will continue through spring of 2013. Initial results show few differences in soil properties and nutrient content between treatments or plots. Annual forage species were sampled during summer 2011 to determine dry matter production and forage quality. Sampling of forages, measures of botanical composition and measures of weed pressure will continue in 2012 with the first samples of the perennial forages being taken after fall 2011 establishment. Video was taken during various project activities for future compilation into educational materials. The farmer cooperators have taken on the major management duties, including contacting the researchers when forages need sampled, maintaining records of forage use, and preparing the field and establishing forage mixtures. Outreach activities in 2011 included a field day presentation to producers and extension agents on organic forage production at the University of Tennessee’s Organic Crops Field Tour in Knoxville, TN and an extension agent tour of the on-farm research site in late summer 2011.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Project activities will benefit producers in the Southern region by providing information on performance of three practical organic forage systems in a real-world setting. Information will include forage yields and quality, soil quality, weed encroachment, and economic feasibility. Producers will receive this information through field days, producer conferences, online video, and a technical publication.

Collaborators:

Chuck Johnston

Farmer cooperator
16357 Blue Springs Rd.
Philadelphia, TN 37846
Julie Johnston

Farmer Cooperator
16357 Blue Springs Rd.
Philadelphia, TN 37846
Dr. Gary Bates

gbates@utk.edu
Professor
2431 Joe Johnson Dr.
Knoxville, TN 37996
Office Phone: 8659748897
Alice Rhea

arhea@utk.edu
Area Specialist, Farm Management
219 Court St
Maryville, TN 37804
Office Phone: 8659826430
John Goddard

jgoddar1@utk.edu
Extension Director
100 River Rd
Suite 112
Loudon, TN 37774
Office Phone: 8654585612