FORAGE SYSTEMS FOR SUSTAINABLE ANIMAL PRODUCTION IN THE MID-SOUTH
Location: Forage-Animal Production Research
Project Number: 6440-21000-001-00
Start Date: Feb 08, 2008
End Date: Feb 07, 2013
The long-term goal of this project is to improve competitiveness and sustainability of forage-based enterprises in the transition zone of the Eastern half of the United States of America. Over the next five years we will focus on the following objectives as determined by stakeholder input and ARS National Program 215 (Rangeland, Pastures and Forages) approval.
Objective 1. Improve persistence, productivity, and quality of forage grasses and legumes for use in the transition zone of the Eastern and Midwestern U.S.
Subobjective 1.A. Determine relative interactions between tall fescue (TF) and endophytes involved in regulating plant growth, forage quality, and persistence under a variety of environmental conditions.
Subobjective 1.B. Identify, characterize, and manipulate useful traits (chemical, physical, genetic) to develop forages that are: biologically diverse, tolerant of biotic and abiotic stresses, competitive, high quality for animal production, persistent, and easy to establish and maintain.
Objective 2. Improve animal and forage productivity on forage-based systems through optimal combinations of forages, supplementation and grazing systems tailored to animal needs and environmental conditions.
Subobjective 2.A. Evaluate forage production characteristics relevant to plant and animal performance on pastures containing new novel endophyte-infected (EI) TFs.
Subobjective 2.B. Develop a forage system for the upper transition zone that utilizes warm season perennial grasses to improve animal performance and profitability.
Subobjective 2.C. Identify the abiotic/biotic components and mechanisms of the plant-animal-environment interface impacting pasture production and environmental quality factors.
Forage systems provide low-cost feed, conserve soil and water resources, and mitigate man’s impact on the environment. Limited basic biological information exists on how plant and/or fungal metabolites affect forage plant quality, persistence, and production. Even less information exists on the cross-talk mechanism between tall fescue (the predominant forage of the transition zone) and its endophyte. Furthermore, little is known about the impact that forage and/or fungal metabolites have on their pasture ecosystems. Gaps in our current knowledge are hindering researchers’ abilities to predict and select best combinations of forages and management systems for use by various forage-animal production enterprises. Aiding researchers to develop new forage varieties, forage systems, and management recommendations will require an improved understanding of both metabolite (plant and fungal) profiles and their biological functions at the molecular and organismal levels. Such understanding of metabolites, molecular mechanisms, and whole-organism responses, and of their impact on plant quality, persistence, and production, is necessary for improving sustainability of forage-based enterprises. This Project Plan, through the development and utilization of cutting-edge technologies and real-world testing, proposes to decipher the complex interactions within the animal-plant-environment interface. In order to accomplish this task and improve sustainability of forage-based enterprises, the following two objectives are proposed: 1) Improve persistence, productivity, and quality of forage grasses and legumes for use in the transition zone of the Eastern and Midwestern United States; and 2) Improve animal and forage productivity on forage-based systems through optimal combinations of forages, supplementation, and grazing systems tailored to animal needs and environmental conditions. These objectives are focused on the predominant forage of the transition zone, tall fescue, as well as on its alternatives and companion species. Accomplishing these objectives will improve sustainability of forage-based enterprises through improved forages, forage management and systems, and basic understanding of the plant/fungal metabolite effects on forage plant persistence and production, as well as consequent effects on the structure and function of pasture ecosystems.