Comparison of techniques for estimating pasture herbage mass and productive ground cover for Lakota prairie grass, Kentucky 31 endophyte free tall fescue, Kentucky 31 endophyte infected tall fescue and Quantum 542 tall fescue grazed by stocker steers
Rotz, Jonathan Daniel
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In terms of acreage, forage is the number one crop in Virginia. The backbone of these forages has long been tall fescue (Lolium arundinaceum (Schreb.) S.J. Darbyshire). Knowledge of the plant species that make up a pasture and the relative amounts of each species present is important for interpreting potential animal performance. It is also important to know the relative amounts and types of weeds present and to monitor for the presence of poisonous plants or noxious weeds. An experiment was conducted in 2003 through 2005 to investigate botanical composition and yield of â Lakotaâ prairie grass (Bromus catharticus Vahl.), â Kentucky 31â endophyte-infected (KY31 E+), endophyte-free (KY31 E-), and â Quantumâ tall fescue (non toxic endophyte infected) under grazing by stocker steers. Forage botanical composition and yield were determined by clipping three 0.25-m2 areas per treatment replicate. Prior to harvesting, the canopy height within each quadrate was measured with a disc meter. In 2005, productive ground cover was assessed using visual evaluation techniques, point quadrat method, and digital imagery quantified with terrestrial remote sensing. Forages were established September 2002 and grazing was initiated in July of 2003. Experimental design was a randomized complete block with four replications. Averaged over the three years the yield of KY31E+ was higher (p<0.05) than all other treatments. Lakota prairie grass had lower (p<0.05) yields than both KY31 E+ and Quantum tall fescue, however no yields did not differ between Lakota prairie grass and KY31 E-. Our results showed a typical forage distribution curve for all the treatments. Early spring, summer, and fall productivity of Lakota prairie grass was less than all the fescues, thus did not extend the grazing season. Forage persistence was greatest for KY31 E+ and Quantum and lowest for Lakota when averaged over all years. Among sampling methods for ground cover, terrestrial remote sensing was the most accurate, compared with visual evaluation and point quadrat methods. For estimates of all yield indirect methods of assessment had high errors; however the plate meter calibrated by sward density seemed the least variable of the methods tested.
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