Alfalfa is also known as the “Queen of Forages” however perceived lack of persistence and low soil pH ranges in the southern United States are protecting this queen from her throne.
To help producers discover ways to help alfalfa regain royalty, researchers from Clemson University, Auburn University, the University of Georgia and the University of Florida teamed as much as host an Alfalfa in the South Field Day for greater than 100 members from South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, at FoxPipe Farm in Laurens.
“Alfalfa once was a predominant perennial legume species in the southern United States,” stated Liliane Silva, Clemson Cooperative Extension Service forages specialist housed on the Edisto Research and Education Center in Blackville. “It is not grown as much today, mainly because of lack of knowledge of management requirements and soil pH levels.”
Soil pH, or acidity ranges, in the southern United States vary from 4.5 to five.0. Optimum pH for alfalfa ranges from 6.5 to 7. Reed Edwards, co-owner of FoxPipe Farm, has been rising alfalfa since 2016. He stated it’s necessary to “get the pH correct from the beginning” and hold soil acidity ranges in test.
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“I’ve had a lot of challenges getting the soil pH to move,” stated Edwards, who additionally talked about rising lespedeza. “This is a red clay environment, so it’s important we have regular soil tests conducted. Soil tests can save us money.”
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In addition to a correct pH degree, alfalfa additionally requires excessive quantities of potassium.
To help individuals be taught extra about forage crops, Silva has a YouTube channel, Forage Drops. Videos provide research-based recommendation on practices to comply with to create more healthy forage techniques.
Alfalfa companion crops
When companion crops are grown with alfalfa, administration practices needs to be adjusted to keep up desired proportion of alfalfa crop in the combination. Ideal companion crops embrace grasses, resembling bermudagrass and fescue.
A presentation on alfalfa-bermudagrass techniques was made in the course of the subject day. Participants realized that interseeding alfalfa in bermudagrass can enhance forage yield and high quality. The Alfalfa Bermudagrass Management Guide, written by Silva, Jennifer Tucker of UGA and Kim Mullenix of Auburn University, compiles greatest administration practices for rising the forages collectively.
Important steps should be adopted for producers rising novel fescue with alfalfa. John Andrae, fescue professional and assistant director of the Clemson Experiment Station, stated some tall fescues produce ergot alkaloids that may be poisonous for livestock. Andrae, famous that “fescue is a fantastic forage,” however producers ought to test for toxicity earlier than utilizing it.
“When converting a field from toxic to non-toxic, the first step is to verify if it is toxic,” Andrae stated. “If a field is found toxic, you will need to get rid of the toxicity before allowing livestock to graze on it or eat from it.”
To confirm a pasture is poisonous, ship fescue samples to a business laboratory.
Several strategies can be utilized to switch stands of poisonous tall fescue. One is the spray-smother-spray technique. This entails spraying a poisonous pasture in the spring and planting a dense smother crop resembling pearl millet. Producers ought to handle the smother crop as they usually would. After the duvet crop is grazed or harvested, the sphere is sprayed once more.
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Another technique is the spray-wait-spray technique – grazing or reducing a subject and spraying with a burndown herbicide 6 weeks and once more at 4 weeks earlier than the goal planting date.
The third technique, spray-spray-plant, entails spraying herbicides in the late summer season and once more four-to-six weeks later adopted by planting a brand new fescue selection simply after the second herbicide software.
Regardless of what technique is chosen, UGA’s Jennifer Tucker stated farmers ought to get rid of poisonous tall fescue as quickly as potential as it’s the “diabetes of grasses,” or combine the poisonous fescue with different non-toxic grasses to lower toxicity to animals.
Cover crops, nutrient biking
Field day matters additionally included planting cowl crops to help enhance forage manufacturing and distribution. Cover crops defend soil with crops which will or will not be used as an extra money crop, help improve soil fertility and soil high quality, handle soil erosion, enhance water retention and infiltration, and help to handle weeds, pests, and ailments, in addition to improve biodiversity and native wildlife. In addition, cowl crops can be utilized for forage manufacturing and be harvested for hay or grazed.
Leanne Dillard of Auburn talked about how cowl crops can enhance soil well being and supply weed management in addition to “allow for year-round grazing.” For growers who plant cowl crops, Reid Miller, Clemson space livestock and forages agent, advises scouting for insect pests and ailments to make sure a wholesome crop.
Appropriate grazing administration may be an ally in protecting a wholesome forage stand, Dillard stated, by selling nutrient biking – changing vitamins in a pasture from the waste of the livestock that graze it.
Clover is a legume that can be utilized as a canopy crop. Joe Bouton, UGA emeritus professor, talked about how clovers help tall fescue develop and are nutritious for animals. Clovers can also help construct soil fertility, forestall erosion and put nitrogen again into the soil by organic nitrogen fixation.
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Bouton can be credited with growing two alfalfa varieties for the South – Bulldog and Alfragraze. Bulldog 805 and Alfagraze 600RR varieties are really helpful for the South; for additional really helpful choices, seek the advice of your Extension agent.
Stanley Kottayadiel raises 160 head of Boer and Kiko goats on his farm in Elberton, Georgia. He attended the sphere day to be taught extra about rising alfalfa in his pastures.
“I want to increase my herd to 500 goats,” Kottayadiel stated. “I need an around-the-year food supply for my herd, so I attended this field day to learn more about establishing and harvesting alfalfa.”
Producers are dealing with traditionally excessive costs for fertilizer, gas and labor, contributing to greater prices for meals and fiber manufacturing. While the outlook might look gloomy, Chris Prevatt, extension agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, stated “the potential for profitability is still there,” though “the next few years will be tight.” Supply chain points and the War in Ukraine are partly in charge.
“These are challenging times for forage producers,” Prevatt stated. “Fertilizer costs have increased to unprecedented highs and input prices, in general, are higher across the board. Producers are going to have to determine their needs vs. their wants.”
But producers mustn’t fear, he stated.
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“Work with a budget,” Prevatt instructed producers. “I know inputs today are challenging, but things are going to change.”
Denise Attaway studies for Public Service and Agriculture in the Clemson University College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences.