Organic forage production systems for organic dairies in the Southern region

2012 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. In 2012, we completed establishment of forage systems and continued to collect data related to forage production, soil quality, and weed pressure. Preliminary results suggest that all forage systems examined would have utility for organic grazing livestock producers, depending on producer objectives.

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

Due to grant timing, it was not possible to complete the establishment of all forage systems in 2011. 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]. The annual system (a) was planted to a mixture of sorghum-sudangrass and cowpea on May 31, 2011 and May 10, 2012 and a mixture of wheat and crimson clover on September 19, 2011 and again on September 14, 2012. Ideally, treatments (b) and (c) would have first been established in the fall of 2010, 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 spring (May 10, 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). Due to a thinner than desirable clover stand on these plots, an additional overseeding operation was conducted on September 14, 2012. Soils were sampled in spring, summer, and fall of 2011 and 2012 for measures of soil nutrients and soil quality, which will continue through spring of 2013. Annual forage species were sampled during summer 2011 to determine dry matter production and forage quality, and all systems sampled through 2012. Sampling of forages, measures of botanical composition and measures of weed pressure will continue through spring 2013. Outreach activities in 2012 included a pasture walk for producers at the research site in cooperation with Organic Valley on May 1, 2012 and a presentation to researchers at the annual meeting of the American Society of Agronomy in Cincinnati, OH in October 2012.

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