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RESEARCH GRANTS AWARDED
Department scientists receive $499,500 USDA Grant to study use of conservation tillage to improve stocker cattle profitability and improve soil and water quality
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture scientists Paul Beck, Merle Anders, Brad Watkins, Shane Gadberry and Stacey Gunter recently received a 3-year grant for $499,500 from the National Research Initiative of the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service to fund research at the UA Livestock and Forestry Branch Station at Batesville, Ark This research will include both research and Extension demonstrations by animal scientists, agronomists and agricultural economists along with researchers from Oklahoma State University and the Noble Foundation in Ardmore, OK. This research will study the effect of conservation tillage for production of winter annual forages and how diversification of farming operation and conservation tillage can help beef producers improve their profits while meeting water quality standards enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency. This grant is a continuation of research that began in 2002 and was funded with a $100,000 NRI seed grant, which compares the performance of fields that have been conventionally tilled — the soil was turned over with disk and chisel plows — with fields that have managed with reduced tillage or no till. Don Hubbell, the director of the UA Livestock and Forestry Branch Station, said “These tests measured the effects of the different tilling systems on soil characteristics, erosion and runoff of nutrients; the performance of cattle grazed on the winter forages grown on the test fields; and the economic impact on costs of maintaining the pastures and returns on the sale of cattle.” Results from the seed grant showed over $100 per acre advantage to conservation-tilled forages used for grazing, primarily due to significantly reduced equipment and fuel costs with little or no reduction in cattle performance. Significant improvements in soil and water quality were seen as well.
Department Scientists receive $453,853 USDA Grant to study strategic use of novel endophyte fescues that minimizes investment but maximizes production
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture scientists, Ken Coffey, Mike Popp, John Jennings, Mary Savin, Charles Rosenkrans, Jr., and USDA scientist Mike Looper have been informed that they will receive a 4-year grant totaling $453,853 from the USDA NRI Program to determine the most efficient use of novel endophyte fescues in Arkansas cow/calf operations. Tall fescue toxicosis has plagued Arkansas cattle producers for decades. The most recent breakthrough in the tall fescue toxicosis area is to inject a fungus into tall fescue that helps the plant be more persistent and have greater drought resistance, but does not produce toxins that harm cattle. While cattle performance has been improved substantially with these forages, the economic benefits of converting all of a producer’s acreage to the new “Novel” fescue do not offset the substantial investment costs. The USDA-funded a study to be conducted at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture’s Livestock and Forestry Branch Station at Batesville that will investigate the benefits of converting only 25% of the total acreage to the new tall fescue. Collaborators in the departments of Animal Science, Agricultural Economics and Agri Business, Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences, and the Cooperative Extension Service will be investigating the impacts of this smaller investment in new fescue technology on growth performance and physiology of cow-calf pairs, post-weaning calf performance, soil ecology, and economic returns. It is expected that moving cattle to the new fescue at strategic times will reduce the majority of the impact of tall fescue toxicosis and make this technology more economical for cattle producers in Arkansas. The study will begin in the winter of 2006 using both spring and fall-calving cows.