Unnecessary Chemical Investments on Rangeland and Pasture to be Discussed at Thurs February 8th Watertown Farm Show Private Applicator Training | TSLN.com

Unnecessary Chemical Investments on Rangeland and Pasture to be Discussed at Thurs February 8th Watertown Farm Show Private Applicator Training

Unnecessary Chemical Investments on Rangeland and Pasture to be Discussed at Thurs February 8th Watertown Farm Show Private Applicator Training

It's Farm Show season again!! It seems to come around faster every year. However, this year is different because as I write this my household is happy that the Vikings pulled off a great win against the Saints!! The Vikings are rarely a subject of happiness this time of year, so this is fun. I'm 44 years old, and a lifelong fan. I'm a horrible father because I've allowed my four children to become Vikings fans as well, and it looked like the heartbreak would continue for them on Sunday. The combined age of my kids is 52, so as a group they've already had a lifetime of pains watching their favorite team. Maybe this year will be different. I'm not a sportswriter, so that is about as much space as SDSU will allow me to waste on sports. My paycheck doesn't depend on football, so I better get back to business.

Those of you who have read my articles in the past know that I often share the science that supports limiting chemical inputs for grassland and livestock management, especially in native grassland systems. There are many reasons to consider limiting chemicals, including protecting profitability by reducing or eliminating unnecessary input costs. The benefits of reduced chemical inputs go far beyond dollars, but they can be hard to measure at times and are often masked by other 'good things' that lend themselves to long-term profitability.

The first step in evaluating whether chemical management has an unbalanced role in your operation is to perform a self-assessment of how your grassland management program came to rely on chemical management in the first place. Very often, these two things….chemicals and management…..are treated synonymously – you cannot have one without the other – right?. Wrong!!. But understanding the how's and why's that got you where you are today does require this self-assessment.

Ask yourself a few basic questions; these can be challenging. The first is, 'what is different about my pasture today than it was 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago?'. What do you remember seeing in relation to plant diversity when you were younger? Do you remember seeing manure pats drilled full of holes that resembled a shotgun blast? Do you recall seeing multiple flowering plants that added color to nearly every month of the growing season? Do recall colorful insects you couldn't identify? Do you actually remember your father or grandfather spending as much time, energy, and money spraying pasture 'weeds'? And finally, can you identify the major plant groups or individual species?

Reflect on those questions, then think about where you are at today. What management decisions or influences might have created the current condition that seemingly requires chemical inputs? Could it be overutilization through improper livestock stocking rates or improper grazing timing? Could it be a well-meaning professional encouraging you to spray as a base part of your management plan? Or, is it possible that the chemical inputs of the past have now changed you plant community to the degree that additional chemical inputs are seemingly necessary?

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These are complex questions for complex grassland systems, and the answers usually come in pieces. At last year's farm show, we began to explore these questions with those attending Private Applicator Training. Over 100 producers who took the training were introduced to concepts that most had not previously considered, such as 'what is the value of a butterfly to my livestock operation?', and other seemingly unrelated questions that are critical to assessing your pasture health and potential profitability.

So, if you want something different in your PAT renewal, or if you are simply interested in this topic, join us for the Thursday, Feb 8th PAT session offered at the Watertown Farm Show. We'll be discussing pasture management at about 10:30 am in that session. See you there!

–SDSU Extension