Forage alternatives for dryland agriculture on the Texas High Plains



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Texas Tech University


The depletion of the aquifer on the southern High Plains of Texas has reduced the amount of water available for irrigation. One alternative would be the conversion of cropland to permanent vegetation for livestock production. Seven high yielding native and introduced warm season grasses were evaluated for establishment, production, and nutritive quality. The species were Blackwell switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), El Reno sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), Morpa weeping lovegrass (Eraqrost is curvula), and four old world bluestem selections including Caucasian (Bothriochloa caucasica), WW517 (B. intermedia var indica), Canada (B. ischaemum var ischaemum), and WWspar (B. ischaemum var ischaemum). Six replications of each species were seeded in mid-May 1981 and 1982 in Garza county on a fine sand and in Lubbock and Terry counties on sandy loam soils. The seedings were successful and adequate stands of all species were established the first year except for the 1982 Post planting. Production curves of second year established stands varied between years. Mid-July production varied as follows: at Lubbock from 8745 kg/ha for weeping lovegrass in 1982 to 817 kg/ha for Caucasian in 1983; at Brownfield from 2598 kg/ha for switchgrass in 1982 to 550 kg/ha for Canada in 1983; and at Post in 1982 from 2064 kg/ha for weeping lovegrass to 281 kg/ha for sideoats grama. Crude protein and Jji vitro digestible organic matter curves for total above ground biomass indicated the quality of these warm season grasses decreases rapidly as the forage matures. However, quality of 30-day old regrowth remained adequate for livestock production throughout the growing season. A combination of these grasses in single species pastures could be used in a grazing system to maintain high quality forage in adequate amounts throughout the growing season. A forage livestock system such as this could provide an alternative to row crop agriculture on the Texas High Plains.