Researchers are looking into how much moisture is used and/or conserved by summer cover crops and how those crops impact production of grasses and legumes consumed by livestock during the winter.
The research is funded by a three-year, $155,975 conservation innovation grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Noble Foundation is managing the study.
Moisture is a key component of crop and forage production. Sufficient moisture levels boost pasture quantity and provide benefits to soil, which ultimately helps farmers and ranchers.
"We need to determine whether the cover crops take moisture away from or preserve moisture for winter pasture," agronomist James Rogers, Ph.D., said. "Preserving moisture will allow for earlier fall production. However, if the cover crops use up the moisture, winter pasture production is limited."
This research is part of the Noble Foundation's Forage 365 initiative, which seeks to enable ranchers to extend their grazing season and reduce dependency on hay. The research that comprises Forage 365 includes basic plant science, improved forage variety development and research on management practices.
"As a whole, Forage 365 focuses on four introduced pillar forages: wheat, bermudagrass, tall fescue and alfalfa in order to improve their performance in Southern Great Plains grazing systems," Rogers said. "Incorporating a cover crop into wheat pasture stocker systems could enhance the system, but it needs to be tested and that is what this grant will help us to do."
Source: Noble Foundation