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,
Darrell C.



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 to say:

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 grazing.

Hope that helps,
John Chandler



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