A year in review: Result Demonstration in Hopkins County
From Dr. Mario Villarino
Hopkins County AgriLife Extension Agent Agriculture
By the time this information gets into your hands, you probably will be celebrating Christmas hopefully with your beloved ones. I got the chance of review some of the agricultural information related to agricultural data and I was amazed by the strength of agricultural products in our country. The publication stated that based on previous year numbers, we consumed as a country 9 billion chickens, 35 million head of beef and 100 swine during 2005 with those numbers steadily climbing every year since. We are an agricultural country with strong ties to what we produce. Locally, one of the goals of the Hopkins County Extension Office is to provide educational support to producers using result demonstration principles. I want to share the result of an interesting demonstration I conducted earlier on the year.
Use of Paratill® Plow for pasture renovation in hardpan soils in Hopkins County
Dr. Mario A. Villarino, CEA-Hopkins, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Dr. Vanessa Olsen, Forage Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Overton, Texas
Tracy Knight, Cooperator, Brashear Texas
Water retention in soil during crop production is a critical factor to obtain successful hay production. During 2011-2012 hay producers in Hopkins County identified the need of adopting water conservation principles to promote soil moisture retention without altering current plant growth. Another mayor concern to hay producers is the existence of hard pan soils in their hay meadows. Hardpan soil is a soil that is underlaid by a rock-hard layer of material close enough to the surface to limit the depth plants can extend their roots and to prevent internal drainage of the soil (Frey L.S, 1981). Very few agricultural implements can renovate hay meadows without affecting the top layers of the soil, rendering then unsuitable to use in perennial crop fields where existing plant material is wanted. One possible exception is the Paratill® Plow, which has been studied at several locations in Central and South Texas. This deep-tillage tool is equipped with coulters that slice through tight sod and plant residues. Following close behind are pairs of “legs” or stationary bottoms that are adjustable along a rigid toolbar. The Paratill® lifts the soil instead of pushing it. It is best used when there is some soil moisture. This would be at 50 percent or less of field capacity, when the soil is well drained, but not too dry. If the correct conditions are present, the soil is lifted “in-place” and falls, leaving the sod fairly intact. The soil is under-cut about 50 percent of the linear surface and is shattered along many natural cleavage planes. When these conditions are present, there will be few, if any, clods produced that are larger than your fist. The drier the conditions existing at time of renovation, the larger the clods that will result. When conditions are too wet, plant residues (bermuda grassroots) cling to the cutting edges of the plow and soil begins to collect on the surfaces. This may also create gaping, smearing, and damage to the soil structure (Bade, D.H. and Livingstone S.D) According to the literature, The Paratill® Plow can loosen tight or compacted soils from 12 to 18 inches to increase root penetration and growth, leave the surface virtually undisturbed (established grasses and surface residues), increase soil moisture storage (which translates into additional forage production) and improve internal drainage through the destruction of clay pans or compacted zones.
The objective of this result demonstration was to determine the effect of paratill plowing in perennial grass hay meadows in hardpan soils in Hopkins County
Materials and Methods
The area selected for this result demonstration showed mixed population of perennial grasses (Bahia grass and Bermuda grass) with medium (25%) weed infestation. The cooperator indicated interest in improving the hay production on the selected area known as the Dan Edge Meadow. The meadow has approximately 60 acres in area with hardpan soils with less than 18 inches of soil depth determined by probing. From the selected area, 50 acres were renovated using a 2 legs and 2 coulters setting paratill plow (Bigham Bros) using a 110 HP John Deere tractor during February 2012 as weather conditions permitted the appropriate operation of the equipment. Ten acres were left undisturbed as control. A general broadleaf herbicide treatment using 2-4D was applied to the complete area (test and control) during May 2012 following dosage recommendations in the product label. Forage production was determined by obtaining grass production per square ft (in grams) of sixty samples (30 for test and 30 for control area). A pooled sample of grass material from each section (test and control) was sent to the Soil and Water Forage Testing Laboratory in College Station, Texas for protein, mineral, ADF and plant analysis. Production of forage comparisons between test and control areas were conducted using unpaired T test.
Results and Discussion
The difference in grass production between the test and control areas were found extremely statistically significant (P> 0.0001, two-tailed) with the plowed areas producing higher amounts of grass estimated to be 6.31 tons/ acre of hay compared to 2.35 tons/ acre of hay on the control area. Forage quality test results indicated neither protein (8.5 % control Vs 7.4% test), nor ADF (46.6% Control Vs 41.9% test) values increase after treatment. Conversely, TDN (48.5 % control Vs 51.8% Test) and Net Energy lactation (0.49 Mcal/lb for control Vs 0.52 Mcal/lb for test) showed increase between plowed and not plowed areas. Forage quality results correspond very well to previously published findings. Post treatment probing, using a 24 inches probe found no apparent hardpan layer in the test area.
The use of Paratill plowing can be of significant benefit to hay producers farming in hardpan soils. Our findings identified a significant increase of hay production between the test and control areas of + 3.96 tons/acre. Because hay products can be affected by several variables not identified in this demonstration, the actual effect of the techniques described on this demonstration can differ between hay production systems.
The authors will like to recognize the technical assistance of Ben Newcome (Ag Power in Sulphur Springs, Texas) during field operation of equipment and to The Soil and Water Forage Testing Laboratory in College Station, Texas for their help with forage analysis. Trade names of commercial products used in this report is included only for better understanding and clarity. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas A&M University System is implied. Readers should realize that results from one experiment do not represent conclusive evidence that the same response would occur where conditions vary. More for information on this or any other agricultural topic, please contact the Hopkins County Extension Office at 903-885-3443 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
Upcoming events: Northeast Texas Cattleman’s Conference, January 30, 2013. Winnboro City Auditorium, 8:00 to 2:30 pm. Cost $15 meal included. Sponsored by Texas AgriLife Extension Service and NETBIO. Four CEU’s for Private Applicators. Call 903-885-3443 to register.