Crop residues can help cattle producers through shortages

South Carolina cattle producers, facing shortages of forages and hay because of prolonged drought, should take a look at baling residue from soybeans and corn.

That’s the advice of two Clemson University speakers during Fall Field Day at Edisto Research and Education Center.

“It’s as bad as I’ve seen it around the state, especially across the Piedmont,” said John Andrae, Clemson University Extension forages specialist. “Except for the lucky ones who have gotten scattered rains, most producers are short of pasture and hay.”

He said it will be important for producers to concentrate this fall on planting small grains such as rye, ryegrass and oats to provide grazing for winter and early spring.

In the meantime, John Irwin, Extension animal scientist in Laurens County, recommended that cattlemen revive a practice forgotten in recent years — baling crop residues from corn and soybean crops.

“Baled corn stalks and soybean straw are not nutrient dense, but they’re filling and can really help in the short-term,” said Irwin. He said another consideration in an emergency would be to feed composted poultry litter combined with cracked or ground corn. Ruminants such as beef cattle can convert the nitrogen in the litter into essential amino acids, the building blocks for proteins. Composting the litter is essential to kill pathogens.

Nearly 350 persons attended the field day, most from South Carolina, but some also from Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Visitors also had a chance to hear the latest research information on crops such as peanuts, cotton, soybeans, watermelons, pumpkins and peppers. Updates on precision agriculture were also presented and a tour of the Edisto Forage Bull Test facilities was offered.

Peanut growers got a look at a test of sources and timing of application of calcium, which is critical for peg formation.

Jay Chapin, peanut specialist at Edisto REC, and his research associate, James Thomas, used four different sources for gypsum, applied at three different times — at-planting, 15 days after planting, and 35 days after planting. The sources were conventional mined gypsum, gypsum from scrubber stacks at Santee Cooper, recycled wallboard and a citrate byproduct.

“We’re trying to see what growers can get away with as far as early application,” said Chapin. “We’ll know after we finish digging.” Peanut growers also took a look at variety trials, experimental lines being tested for disease resistance, a variety/digging date study, disease and insect management plots, and studies of inoculants and foliar nutrients.

Randy Taylor, Extension agricultural engineer from Oklahoma State University, talked about using ramp calibration strips to give producers an easy way to determine how much nitrogen to use when top-dressing crops.

All the grower has to do after planting wheat, for example, is select a 160-foot strip of the field where he will apply nitrogen at increasing rates ranging from 0 to 200 pounds per acre. As the crop grows the producer can easily see where adding more nitrogen no longer gives an added return. The cutoff point is the proper nitrogen rate for the entire field. He said the strips are simpler to use than sensors, which determine plant health by analyzing infrared readings from foliage.

Ahmad Khalilian, Clemson University ag engineer at Edisto REC, is adapting the OSU system to South Carolina, where fields are not as uniform as they are in Oklahoma.

“We will be adding soil types to our equations,” he said. “We’ll map fields using electrical conductivity meters to show where the sandy areas and heavier soils are. Growers will have to use a ramp strip for each soil type to determine best nitrogen levels.”

During the soybean/cotton tour John Mueller, nematologist/plant pathologist at Edisto REC, said that Asian soybean rust disease has been a no-show in South Carolina this year, probably because of hot, dry conditions. (Soybean rust was later detected in the state.)

Mueller also encouraged farmers to take samples for nematode analysis. The information will be invaluable when it comes time to select varieties or treat with nematicides. With the drought stress of 2007 nematode damage is very visible in the field.

“A third of our fields in South Carolina have high enough nematode numbers that growers should either be rotating to another crop or putting out a $35 per acre Telone treatment,” he said.

Clemson soybean breeder Emerson Shipe said he has three lines in trials across the Southeast which could soon be released as varieties. They have good disease and nematode resistance.

Mike Jones, cotton specialist from the Pee Dee REC, gave some tips on the use and timing of defoliants and growth regulators.

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