Tuesday, November 3, 2009: 3:15 PM
Convention Center, Room 317, Third Floor
Forages for hay and hay silage occupy approximately 25 million ha and contribute $11 billion to U.S. agriculture receipts. The environmental value of forages in terms of carbon storage, wildlife habitat, reduced soil erosion and nutrient runoff, and reduced N fertilizer requirements for grain crops succeeding forage legumes is recognized, but difficult to quantify. The land occupied by forage crops has remained stable over the past 30 years; however annual forage production has increased by 50% over that period. This indicates that improved management practices have been adopted, but the technology base is still ahead of farm practices, leaving opportunities for continued improvement through educational efforts. The NRCS Conservation Practice Standard Code 511 is designed to help the farmer or rancher optimize the economic yield of forage at the desired quality and quantity. Generally, forage yield contributes more than forage quality in terms of maximizing livestock production per hectare of forage harvested. Two to 3-year stands of alfalfa are now often more profitable than long-term stands because of the value of N to succeeding corn in rotations. However these systems with short-run economic profit could cause environmental problems associated with more years of row-crop production in the rotation. Forage crops can be used for nutrient uptake from livestock manure, sewage effluent, and canning plant wastewater. These byproducts can enhance profitability of forage crop production by replacing purchased fertilizer as a nutrient source, but bacteria, toxins, and mineral imbalances in forage can affect animal health or quality of livestock products. Forage species that mature later and allow later harvest may enhance value as wildlife habitat but often with a reduction in forage quality or annual yield. Breakthroughs in insect resistance, such as glandular hair alfalfa that is resistant to potato leafhopper, can reduce insecticide use and negative impacts on desirable insects.