Managing Grasslands Important To Economy Environment

Edward Twidwell, Zappi, Mark, Granger, Andrew L., Sanders, Dearl E., Chaney, John A.  |  12/13/2006 1:38:54 AM

News Release Distributed 12/12/06

ALEXANDRIA – Livestock and forage producers and officials from across the state gathered here earlier this month to learn about more efficient ways to produce and market forage.

Approximately 75 people attended the Louisiana Forage and Grassland Council meeting at the LSU AgCenter’s Dean Lee Research and Extension Center near Alexandria Dec. 1.

"The meeting provides an educational opportunity for producers and officials to share information on the implementation of recommended practices that can improve the productivity of the land," said LSU AgCenter forage specialist Dr. Ed Twidwell.

Participants exchanged ideas with other producers, viewed display booths, recognized accomplishments of the state’s forage producers and took part in the educational meeting to learn about land management and forage production.

In a segment about managing grasslands for additional economic opportunities, Dr. Mark Zappi with the University of Louisiana in Lafayette covered government incentives that are fueling the development of alternative energy sources. He also explained the federal government is providing $59 million to develop alternative fuels from various agricultural crops.

"The alternative fuel situation has changed in the last few years," Zappi said. "Two years ago we had plenty of crop oil but little market. Now, with the increase in fuel prices, we have a market and little crop oil."

With more than 3 million acres of pasture and hay land in the state, there is a potential for the production of forage crops to be used to make alternative fuels, the LSU AgCenter’s Twidwell said, adding, "But it must be profitable for the producer."

Another management strategy discussed during the session was weed control and the need to control winter annual weeds like buttercup – a weed with yellow flowers that seems to dominate pastures in the late winter and early spring.

"I get a lot of questions about how to control buttercup in the spring," said LSU AgCenter weed scientist Dr. Dearl Sanders. "But now is the time to control winter weeds like buttercup – while they are small and very sensitive to the less expensive herbicides containing 2-4-D."

Sanders explained that if treated now (in December) while they are small, such weeds might be treated a pint of 2-4-D herbicide. To do the same job in the spring might take a quart of the same product, he said.

Not only are the weeds larger and more difficult to control in the spring, but use of herbicides containing 2-4-D also is restricted that time of year – especially in the cotton growing areas of the state, Sanders pointed out.

In another presentation, Twidwell and LSU AgCenter agent Andrew Granger discussed the effects hurricanes Rita and Katrina had on pasture lands and livestock- producing areas of the state – and the lingering problems that still exist.

"The tidal surge killed thousands of cattle and virtually decimated the pasture and forage lands in the hurricane-affected area," said Granger.

The tidal surge and wind from the hurricanes destroyed pastures, stored feed, hay, fences, barns and other infrastructure as it washed salt water ashore from the Gulf of Mexico, the experts said.

Virtually all forage plants living at the time when the hurricanes hit were damaged. In addition, salt from the storm water surge was deposited on the land, which also impeded growth of forage plants after the storms, they said.

After the storms, "Volunteer ryegrass was the first grass to grow in the winter, and Bermudagrass the first to come up in the spring following the hurricanes," said Granger.

As advice to livestock and forage producers in hurricane-prone areas, the experts suggested producers find alternative locations for storing feed and hay outside those areas. They also suggested making plans for places to move livestock to keep them out of threatened areas.

The forage and grassland meeting also provides an opportunity to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of its members and those who participate in the annual hay show.

The winners of the 2006 State Hay Quality Contest were:

–The Grand Champion Hay Award went to Clay Pierce from Lafourche Parish. Pierce also won Clover and Grass Clover Hay divisions.

–First place in the Bermudagrass Hay Division went to Gordon Raley of Franklin Parish.

–First place in the Ryegrass Hay Division, Carroll Charpentier, Terrebonne Parish.

–First place in Miscellaneous Hay Division, Jimmie Johnson, Union Parish.

–First Place in Ryegrass Haylage Division, Ray Hodson, Lafourche Parish.

Other topics covered during the meeting included environmental and conservation programs, fertilizer applications and managing the production of trees and cattle.

For more information on the production of forages, cattle or other agricultural topics – as well as a broad range of other issues – contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.

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Contacts:
Ed Twidwell at (225) 578-4070 or etwidwell@agcenter.lsu.edu
Andrew Granger at (337) 898-4335 or AGranger@agcenter.lsu.edu
Dearl Sanders at (225) 683-5848 or DSanders@agcenter.lsu.edu
Mark Zappi at (337) 482-6685 or zappi@louisiana.edu
Writer:
John Chaney at (318) 473-6589 or jchaney@agcenter.lsu.edu

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