BY LISA BAXTER
UGA Extension Forage Specialist
THE SUNBELT AG EXPO Darrell Williams Research Farm providesan exceptional opportunity to highlight forage research in SouthGeorgia. These hayfields provide an outdoor classroom for UGAExtension county agents in-service trainings, producer field daysand collaborative industry events.
There are multiple demonstrations and on-going research trialsin progress on the farm to address basic forage needs in addition toevaluating the integration of novel weed and insect managementstrategies into forage systems.
The two-acre bermudagrass garden provides a field-scalecomparison of the six most popular bermudagrass varieties inthe Southeast. Here producers can interact with and evaluatethese different varieties before selecting the best option fortheir own farm.
This area is also used for large plotresearch trials to better simulate the yieldimpact of the bermudagrass stem maggot,or BSM, that would be observed on-farm.The BSM has caused significant yield loss inall six varieties since 2017, but a higher percent damage was always observed in thefour finer-textured varieties (Alicia, Coastal,Russell, and Tifton 44).
The biggest takeaway from these studies has been the influence of improvedmanagement on reducing BSM impact onforage yield. Cumulative yields have doubled between 2017 and 2020 because ofimproved forage and harvest management, despite fluctuations in BSM populations in the late part of the season (August– September) that traditionally lead to 40%or more yield loss.
Our next research project will use thermal imagery to assessthe field and determine the optimum time to apply insecticides.The goal is to use canopy temperature as an early indicator of plantstress to improve effectiveness of insecticide applications for suppressing BSM populations.
Multiple sites on the farm are being used to test the new pre-emergent herbicide from Bayer Crop Science. It was successful incontrolling annual ryegrass and other winter weeds in bermudagrass. We are also evaluating its effectiveness in controlling summer annual weeds while establishing bermudagrass.
A new field of Tifton 85 bermudagrass was sprigged in June2020. This field will not only improve the production potential ofthe farm, but it will also be used to demonstrate the importance offollowing establishment guidelines for a successful stand. A newalfalfa field will be seeded in 2022. Video from each of these establishments will be used in online educational programs.
Sunbelt Expo is a valuable locationfor south Georgia forage
Multiple demonstrationsand on-going researchtrials take place at theSunbelt Ag Expo DarrellWilliams Research Farmto address the needsof Southern foragegrowers.