Date of this Version
Noble Foundation Ag News & Views. 25:12 (December 2007) (etc.)
Switchgrass has future potential in the Southern Plains as a dedicated cellulosic biofuels crop. In the near and intermediate terms, an economically viable use for switchgrass needs to be found. In May 2007, the Noble Foundation Agricultural Division successfully established a 30-acre field of switchgrass at the Red River Demonstration and Research Farm. Beginning in April 2008, we will evaluate the utilization and value of switchgrass for stocker cattle. Switchgrass may have value for stockers because of its early spring availability, high yields, perennial life form, wide adaptability and low fertilization requirements.
Second-year stands of switchgrass become available for grazing near April 15. To enhance growth and nutritive value, we recommend fertilizing switchgrass stands with nitrogen at 50 to 100 pounds per acre. Intensive early stocking with young growing cattle from April 15 through June 15 could take advantage of the early season period of rapid growth and associated young, high quality plant tissue. Under such management, we recommend that switchgrass not be grazed from July through November. The rest period will allow switchgrass enough time to recover leaf area and store energy reserves by fall. Alternatively, one could manage switchgrass with a continuous, season-long stocking at a moderate rate with beef cows from late April through September. Such management has been practiced for years on native range.