UF agriculture specialist sheds light on new developments in livestock and forage practices
ASHLEY FLUKE is the UF/IFAS Osceola County Extension Agent who was in charge of the recent Forage Field Day, held on April 1 in Kenansville, Florida. Central Florida Ag News asked her to discuss recent developments and trial results, which could enhance livestock production.
CENTRAL FLORIDA AG NEWS (CFAN): What were the main topics covered at Forage Field Day?
ASHLEY FLUKE: We concentrated on four subjects including soil fertility, weed control, and perennial peanut performance, but the main focus for this field day was on two new varieties of Hemarthria. Hemarthria, of course, is a forage that grows very well in wet areas, and the University of Florida released two new varieties, Gib and Kenhy, to a few ranches in 2014. We’ve got some samples and we have been monitoring them at our demo plot. We planted in October and the grass looks great.
CFAN: Are these new varieties superior? What are some of their benefits?
FLUKE: There are some qualities Gib and Kenhy have, that the older varieties lacked. Associate Professor Dr. Joao Vendramini, a University of Florida associate professor – agronomy specialist, discussed how this grass performed. For example, Hemarthria makes a great hay, it has a high sugar content so cattle really like it, but these new varieties are showing greater digestibility and a greater protein content. That’s the one thing about Hemarthria, it’s not high in protein content, but Gib and Kenhy have a higher quality of protein.
CFAN: You also covered weed control. Any new developments?
FLUKE: Associate Professor Dr. Brent Sellers discussed the problem of weeds in perennial peanuts that we have in this part of the state that they don’t really see in the northern parts of Florida. Goat weed is a major issue for the perennial peanut. Of course, they’re a legume, so weed control is a challenge, just because there aren’t as many options. We also had a DOW Chemical representative, Blake Williams, discuss the results of a trial he helped us with, controlling tropical soda apple weed in Hemarthria. We used a Milestone and Outrider mix and had really great control on the Hemarthria.
CFAN: What unique challenges in regards to soil fertility were presented?
FLUKE: Associate Professor Dr. Cheryl Mackowiak just started a soil fertility trial study on our demo site and she covered some of the issues we see locally. With our sandy soils, there can be a lot of leaching — our soils don’t hold onto fertilizer like some of the denser clay types. There’s been a lot of research that indicates a lack of potassium may be an issue. She is going to look at some phosphorus and potassium trials.
CFAN: Finally, what do you hope attendees got out of Forage Field Day?
FLUKE: It was really positive and well received. We had 40 people in attendance and well over 100,000 acres represented. I really wanted them to understand the benefits of these new Hemarthria varieties and a lot of them are interested in using them. I want them to be able to take a realistic approach to using these different forages and have an expert to give them all they need to know.
staff report by CENTRAL FLORIDA AG NEWS
USDA photo by GAIL HENDRICKS