DEAR NEW FARM:
I have 26 acres that was passed on to me. It has not been
worked in more than 40-plus years and just has trees on it
and underbrush that has grown up. My goal is to grow the best
Tifton 85 that I can and to run cattle on it and cut hay for
my horses. I'm in Leon County, Texas (all sand here). After
I have my land cleared, what steps do I need to take to grow
Tifton 85, from start to finish, and maintain it? One more
thing, I saw online somewhere you could grow Tifton 85 up
to 3 feet. Is that a good thing or not?
Thanks for your help,
We asked former Rodale Institute intern John Chandler, who
recently took a job as farm manager of TreeGrace Farms www.treegracefarms.com
in Lubbock, Texas, for his input. Here’s what John had
Tifton 85 was bred for high-input, conventional agriculture
to be high-yielding, but the forage quality is only average.
It requires lots of water and nitrogen to be productive,
and the quality of the forage falls off quickly after about
5 weeks, so growing it to 3 feet would be compromising the
quality of the grass.
What makes Tifton 85 stand out from other Bermuda hybrids
is its fast-establishing nature, allowing for substantial
harvests the first year. This is necessary because of the
exorbitant upfront cost of planting Tifton, and large producers
require a fast return on their substantial investment.
One could certainly grow Tifton organically—with
lots of water and an organic source of nitrogen like manure—but
it is not the ideal forage for animals. Livestock—like
humans—do best with a wide range of foods, including
a diverse array of grasses and forbs. Coincidentally, that's
the way pasture appears in nature. I would recommend allowing
the native grasses already present in your pasture to thrive
by grazing it. There are billions of seeds in the soil waiting
for sunlight and manure to germinate.
If there is not a significant quantity of legumes, find
out from your Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
agent what the good pasture legumes for your area are, no-till
drill them in, and let the animals do the rest. A diverse
array of forage also makes great hay for your horses. If
you want your land to be ultra-productive, try management-intensive
Hope that helps,
us with comments, suggestions and questions.