PSS Forage Group's Switchgrass Project a Success

PSS Forage Group's Switchgrass Project a Success

PSS Forage Group's Switchgrass Project a Success

Published on Jun. 5, 2013

LEXINGTON, KY (June 5th, 2013) - In 2007, Plant and Soil Sciences Department Fforage specialists, East Kentucky Power Cooperative personnel and 20 farmers in northeastern Kentucky began a pilot project looking at the biomass potential of switchgrass, a warm-season forage native to Kentucky.

Several factors have limited the current biomass market, but Ray Smith, UK extension forage specialist, said the project was still a success.

“We learned a whole lot and found some useful applications for the forage until a consistent biomass market develops,” said Smith, who was the primary investigator on the project.

The research project, directed by UK hay specialist Tom Keene and funded by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund, has yielded better recommendations for establishing switchgrass as forage, an economic spreadsheet farmers can utilize to determine if switchgrass would be a good option for their operation, documented environmental benefits of the crop and possibly a more cost effective way to make the product easier to transport and handle.

Smith said half of the original group of farmers still have productive stands of switchgrass and are cutting it for hay or grazing cattle on it, as it thrives during the hot, dry months of summer when cool-season grasses struggle. He said the producers were extremely pleased with switchgrass’ production and quality during the 2012 drought.

“One of the primary reasons why we selected switchgrass for this project was because it showed great promise as a dual purpose crop,” Smith said.

UK researchers found that producers could take an early cutting of switchgrass for hay and harvest it in late fall for a biomass crop without a significant yield loss, which is promising if a market develops. Former UK graduate student David Davis conducted a study in 2011 that showed when switchgrass is harvested at a leafy stage, it has acceptable digestibility and protein that growing steers need.

To learn more, here is a link to complete story from the college news site.

Contact Information

Rebecca McCulley, Ph.D.
Department Chair

105 Plant Sciences Building Lexington, KY 40546-0312

(859) 257-5020