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Perennial Peanut in Bahia Grass Pastures

A.Fluke. UF/IFAS Extension Osceola County, Kissimmee, FL
Situation: Optimal soil fertility is a challenge for Central Florida cattle producers grazing Bahiagrass.  Necessary nutrients are commonly deficient.  There is risk in implementing new forage systems causing ranchers to often avoid it.  Perennial Peanut is a nutrient dense legume which fixes Nitrogen in soil.  2 Perennial Peanut varieties will be planted on the UF/IFAS Osceola County Applied Research Site to demonstrate performance when strip planted with Bahiagrass, an approach practical to the cow-calf producer.  Establishment and persistence will be monitored and used to show performance. Methods: Planting material was provided by UF specialists, equipment and product was achieved through grants and sponsorships.  A half-acre each of 2 varieties, Ecoturf and Florigraze, were strip planted with a half-acre of Bahiagrass, totaling 2 acres.  Soil samples were taken, plots were prepared, pre and post-emergent herbicides were applied and one application of fertilizer.  Rainfall was monitored.  A field day was held providing a presentation on research done on both varieties, Best Management Practices, and an onsite demonstration was given. 22 producers attended.  Plots continue to be monitored for further assessment. Results: Initially, Florigraze established at a faster rate but both varieties are performing similarly.  The greatest challenge is control of goatweed in plots.  Of the 22 participants, 100% gained knowledge in management of the forage variety and 4 producers representing over 30,000 acres strongly consider implementing Perennial Peanut on their operations.  Further trial is requested and a field day is scheduled for spring 2016. Conclusion: Due to the risk of implementing new forage varieties and the relatively slow establishment Perennial Peanut, producers prefer to have a demonstration of how it will perform in the Central Florida area before investing in it.  The plots in Osceola County will provide such a demonstration and subsequent recommendations.  Utilization of legumes such as P. Peanut for hay and grazing can offset the cost of winter supplementation significantly and reduce the need for N fertilization.  There is great interest in legumes on cow-calf operations, the task is finding the most economically efficient varieties.  The demonstration site will continue to do this through producer needs assessments and the use of Best Management Practices.