Associate Professor at the University of Georgia, Dr. Jennifer Tucker is researching how alfalfa can be incorporated into bermudagrass systems in order to increase alfalfa production in the humid Georgia climate.
Alfalfa was once a popular crop in the south. Tucker claims that alfalfa was once a popular crop in the south, but it was forced out of the mainstream by low nitrogen prices, insect infestations, and disease pressure. Although better management practices and protocols have been developed to overcome those challenges, the perception that it won’t grow in Georgia or the Deep South persists.
“But my colleagues in extension, as well as industry partners, have proven it will work,” she says.
Tucker states that bermudagrass can be a good partner to alfalfa because of a few factors. Bermudagrass is a warm-season grass while alfalfa, a cool-season grass, creates an ebb & flow between the two systems.
“You have times when alfalfa is dominant and times when bermudagrass is dominant,” says Tucker. “You take an area of land that’s only usually producing four months out of the year, but in our environment, we can get six to eight cuttings out of a season on that. It really enhances our warm-season dominant systems in the South.”
Tucker hopes to encourage alfalfa cultivation and also increase forage production, which is a method for carbon sequestration.
This research project, which is slated to run for the next five to six years, builds off Tucker’s previous research, “Alfalfa Forage System Management Strategies & Social Concepts for Expanding the Integration of Alfalfa into Southern Forage Livestock Operations.” The new project, “Alfalfa nutrient preservation, utilization and cycling in sustainable southeastern livestock systems,” focuses on environmental factors, like carbon cycling nutrients within the environmental systems, nutrient cycling within foraging animals, nutrient cycling within foraging systems, and incorporating the results of the previous study to strategically manage the system to optimize longevity.
The University of Georgia will host the Better Grazing Project. Tucker says anyone interested in seeing the system up close is welcome to visit the project’s demonstration area.
Source: Successful Farming