The Sunbelt Ag Expo Darrell Williams Research Farms provides an exceptional opportunity to highlight forage research in south Georgia. These hayfields provide an outdoor classroom for UGA Extension county agents in-service trainings, producer field days and collaborative industry events.
There are multiple demonstrations and on-going research trials in progress on the farm to address basic forage needs in addition to evaluating the integration of novel weed and insect management strategies into forage systems. The two-acre bermudagrass garden provides a field-scale comparison of the six most popular bermudagrass varieties in the Southeast. Here producers can interact with and evaluate these different varieties before selecting the best option for their own farm.
This area is also used for large-plot research trials to better simulate the yield impact of the bermudagrass stem maggot, or BSM, that would be observed on-farm. The BSM has caused significant yield loss in all six varieties since 2017, but a higher percent damage was always observed in the four finer-textured varieties (Alicia, Coastal, Russell, and Tifton 44). The biggest takeaway from these studies has been the influence of improved management on reducing BSM impact on forage yield. Cumulative yields have doubled between 2017 and 2020 because of improved forage and harvest management, despite fluctuations in BSM populations in the late part of the season (August – September) that traditionally lead to 40% or more yield loss.
Our next research project will use thermal imagery to assess the field and determine the optimum time to apply insecticides. The goal is to use canopy temperature as an early indicator of plant stress to improve effectiveness of insecticide applications for suppressing BSM populations.
Multiple sites on the farm are being used to test the new pre-emergent herbicide from Bayer Crop Science. It was successful in controlling annual ryegrass and other winter weeds in bermudagrass. We are also evaluating its effectiveness in controlling summer annual weeds while establishing bermudagrass. A new field of Tifton 85 bermudagrass was sprigged in June 2020. This field will not only improve the production potential of the farm, it will be used to demonstrate the importance of following establishment guidelines for a successful stand. A new alfalfa field will be seeded in 2022. Video from each of these establishments will be used in online educational programs.