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Forage management strategies discussed at O.D. Butler Field Day

As global populations increase, there will be added pressure on fuel and fertilizer needs in the coming years, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert. With fertilizer still an expensive input for forage producers, some producers are opting not to fertilize Bermuda grass fields, said Dr. Larry Redmon, AgriLife Extension state forage specialist.

One option could be to replace Bermuda grass with another forage variety that does not require the same level, or any, fertilizer. That includes bahiagrass, which traditionally has been an unfavorable choice among producers, or a transition to native forages.

"I've been getting more calls from people looking for seed," he said recently at the 2009 O.D. Butler Memorial Forage Field Day at Circle X Ranch in Bryan, Texas. "Another option to consider is kleingrass, which is an excellent forage, but you don't want to use it for horses, sheep or goats."

Native forages that require no fertilizer may be the best option, Redmon said. Overall, for a producer to effectively save money there needs to be a written management plan and a constant monitoring to determine whether progress is being made toward the production system goals and objectives.

"Things are changing because of the global economy," he said. "To grow this forage, it's becoming increasingly more expensive. We need to stop managing in a haphazard fashion."

That also includes getting a soil test to determine where there are nutrient deficiencies for systems that still require fertilizer inputs.

"This way there is no money wasted on unnecessary fertilizer nutrients and ensures there are adequate nutrients in place to achieve the forage production goals.," Redmon said.

Fertilizer prices continue to be high due to increased world-wide demand, Redmon said.

"One economist projects in the next five years, one billion people will move to the middle class of their respective societies," Redmon said. "Increased demand from other countries will put pressure on both fuel and fertilizer prices."

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