Cattle producers see new forage production techniques

Johnny Morgan, Bardwell, Ronald D.  |  9/15/2009 12:22:24 AM

Allen Tarver demonstrates the effieciency of the plant-o-vator during a field day Sept. 1 in Folsom.

News release distributed 09/14/09

More than 70 Louisiana and Mississippi cattle producers heard about interseeding summer annuals into Bahia grass sod at a forage tour Sept. 1 in Folsom.

Dr. Ronnie Bardwell, LSU AgCenter area dairy agent, coordinated the tour with the tour host, Allen Tarver, an equipment salesman, cattleman and forage producer in Folsom.

Bardwell said the tour was held on Tarver’s farm because of the processes Tarver employs in producing high-quality forage.

“Tarver has been planting a lot of different type forages interseeded into Bahia with legumes, cow peas, mung beans and clover,” Bardwell said.

The key to Tarver’s technique is found in his equipment. He relies on a piece of equipment called a “plant-o-vator,” which opens a furrow deep enough to apply fertilizer beneath the seedbed and only disturbs a small area of the topsoil, decreasing erosion.

Mississippi State University’s Cooperative Extension Service faculty worked closely with LSU AgCenter personnel in planning the program.

Bardwell said participants at the event toured Tarver’s pastures, where they viewed the success he’s having with sod-based forage production.

“This tour gave producers a chance to view and ask questions about interseeded crops of cowpeas, mung beans, hybrid sudan grass and brown mid-rib sorghums in Bahia grass,” he said.

Producers also saw sweet sorghum, vining soybeans and corn and were able to question Tarver about his production practices.

Bardwell said the growers were impressed by Tarver’s sod-based operation with minimal rainfall during the summer months, and they showed great interest in Tarver’s grazing methods of cowpeas and Bahia grass at one of the stops on the tour.

“I think the highlight of the tour though was watching a demonstration of the plant-o-vator in action in a Bahia grass pasture,” Bardwell said.

After lunch, producers participated in a round table discussion of sod-based forage production practices.

Tarver said this idea came to him when planting his winter pasture became too expensive and organic matter and topsoil losses were too high.

“We’ve been in business for 59 years, and for the past 20 years we have been sod-based” Tarver said. “It’s the way we do it, and we won’t go back.”

Tarver said he plants his forages in a seedbed 5½ inches deep and 3 inches wide every 12 inches. It’s designed to hold rainwater to keep it available for the plant roots and not run off into nearby waterways.

“With the plant-o-vator system, you never need to disk or plow,” Tarver said. “It breaks the crust and creates reservoirs every 12 inches.”

He said these reservoirs hold rainwater and manure laden with nitrogen and phosphorus, so they are absorbed into the soil.

“You get more from the crop with only one trip through the field,” Tarver said. “You also reduce soil erosion and fertilizer and chemical use.”

Bardwell said in addition to interseeding traditional crops, Tarver also is experimenting with some non-traditional forage.

“Mr. Allen thinks out of the box, and it shows with his idea to plant non-native crops like Mung beans that flourish in our hot, dry summers,” he said.

Bardwell said he’s been working with Tarver for several years and is convinced that sod-based forage production has a future in the South.

Johnny Morgan

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