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 to
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,
us with comments, suggestions and questions.