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Impact of drones on forage quality in grazing pastures

Improving forage quality for livestock is an important aspect of animal husbandry. Farmers and ranchers are constantly seeking ways to enhance the nutritional value of their livestock's diet. One approach is to apply specific chemicals to pastures to improve forage quality. In this article, we will explore the various chemicals that are commonly used to achieve this objective.


  1. Fertilizers

Fertilizers are a common chemical applied to pastures to improve forage quality. Fertilizers provide essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to grasses and other forage crops, thus promoting their growth and improving their nutritional value. However, it is important to note that overuse of fertilizers can result in soil and water pollution, as well as reduced soil fertility over time. Soil testing should be used to accurately determine phosphorus, potassium, and lime needs and prevent excessive levels of phosphorus and potassium, which can lead to grass tetany or milk fever. In an intensively grazed pasture, 80% of the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are recycled back to the pasture, and phosphorus and potassium can be applied separately, together, or in combination with nitrogen fertilizer. (“Fertilizer Management of Pastures”) Nitrogen fertilizer can increase pasture yields dramatically, with measured increases of 400% or more. Nitrogen and moisture are the main factors limiting pasture growth, so if you notice lush, dark green growth surrounding manure and urine spots in your pastures, this is an indication of nitrogen deficiency.

  1. Lime

Another substance used to enhance the quality of the forage on pastures is lime. Lime assists in balancing the pH of soil, increasing its alkalinity and decreasing its acidity. This increases the availability of nutrients, especially phosphorus, which is crucial for plant growth. Additionally, lime can strengthen the structure of the soil, enhancing root development and water retention. Soil testing is the only way to determine how much lime or fertilizer is required to achieve the desired level of production for a particular forage species or species mix. The objective in forage production should be to maintain a satisfactory soil pH with lime and make sure that nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are present at the necessary levels. Forage grasses respond most dramatically to nitrogen, while legume persistence is more dependent on lime and potassium. For grasses and legumes, potassium is also crucial for plant winter hardiness. Soil testing ought to be done on each pasture.

  1. Herbicides

Weeds can compete with forage crops for essential nutrients and reduce forage quality. Herbicides are chemicals applied to pastures to control the growth of weeds, thus improving forage quality. However, it is important to use herbicides judiciously as overuse can result in toxic residues in the soil, which can have adverse effects on both plants and animals. Various herbicides are available to provide broad-spectrum weed control. When making a selection, try to choose a product that will control as many weeds as possible to reduce the use of herbicides and reduce the number of passes through the field. Pre-emerge and post-emerge herbicides are two popular types of weed control products that must be applied before the weed seeds germinate. Prowl H2O is an example of a pre-emerge product used to control Crabgrass in Bermudagrass hayfields. Post-emerge products must be used when the plant is actively growing and not simply green. herbicides have grazing and feeding restrictions stated on the label that limit the use of the crop for livestock feed. These restrictions can range from seven days to one year, and different products vary in their restriction guidelines. Most products also have a withdrawal period before slaughter.


There are several commonly used herbicides for grazing pastures, including:

  1. Glyphosate: Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide that is effective against many types of weeds. It is commonly used to control weeds in grazing pastures.

  2. 2,4-D: 2,4-D is another broad-spectrum herbicide that is commonly used to control broadleaf weeds in grazing pastures.

  3. Dicamba: Dicamba is a selective herbicide that is effective against many broadleaf weeds. It is commonly used in combination with other herbicides to control weeds in grazing pastures.

  4. Picloram: Picloram is a selective herbicide that is effective against many types of brush and woody plants. It is commonly used to control brush and woody plants in grazing pastures.

  5. Triclopyr: Triclopyr is a selective herbicide that is effective against many types of brush and woody plants. It is commonly used to control brush and woody plants in grazing pastures.

  6. GrazonNext: In grazing pastures, GrazonNext herbicide is a broad-spectrum herbicide that is used to control weeds and brush. It combines the two active ingredients 2,4-D and aminopyralid, which together control a variety of perennial broadleaf weeds like thistles, clovers, and dandelions. It has numerous advantages, including the following. Tank-mixing with liquid fertilizer is an option. There are no grazing restrictions for any types of livestock.


https://extension.psu.edu/downloadable/download/sample/sample_id/12206/


  1. Insecticides

Insect pests can cause significant damage to forage crops, reducing their quality and quantity. Insecticides are chemicals used to control insect pests in pastures, thus improving forage quality. But it's crucial to use insecticides strategically because overusing them can breed resistant insect populations and harm non-target animals like bees. On foraged grasses, armyworms, grasshoppers, and other plant-eating insects are the main pests. When populations of armyworms, Bermudagrass stem maggots, and grasshoppers reach three to four larvae per square foot, treatment should be applied. If the fields are within seven days of the normal harvest stage, they should be harvested, and any baled grass should be removed. Within a few days of the previous harvest, it is advised to treat infested, recently harvested fields with a foliar insecticide. Adults will be effectively controlled by relatively low concentrations of pyrethroid insecticides, aiding in the prevention of reinfestation.. The following are some of the commonly used insecticide types: Organophosphates are widely used insecticides that kill insects by paralyzing their nervous systems by blocking an enzyme. They are effective against many pests, including flies, ticks, and lice. Pyrethrin, a naturally occurring insecticide derived from chrysanthemum flowers, is a type of pyrethroid, a class of synthetic insecticides. They attack the nervous system of insects, which results in paralysis and death. For the control of insects like ticks, flies, and mosquitoes, pyrethroids are frequently used. Carbamates are pesticides that kill insects by paralyzing them and obstructing an enzyme in their nervous system. To get rid of insects like flies, ticks, and lice, they are frequently used.

See the link below for some specifics on grazing intervals with specific products.

https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/documents/pb1768.pdf

  1. Fungicides

Fungal diseases can cause significant damage to forage crops, reducing their quality and yield. Fungicides are chemicals used to control fungal diseases in pastures, thus improving forage quality. However, it is important to use fungicides judiciously as overuse can lead to the development of resistant fungal populations and harm non-target organisms such as beneficial soil microbes.

Drone spraying is a new way to manage crops and pastures that uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to spray crops and pastures in a precise and efficient way. Drones can aid in the reduction of chemical overuse and pollution by applying chemicals to specific areas of a field or pasture, reducing the amount of chemicals needed and the risk of overuse. This is because drones can put down chemicals more precisely and accurately than other methods.

In addition to reducing overuse and pollution, drone spraying technology can also save time and reduce costs. With drones, farmers and ranchers can cover large areas of land quickly and efficiently, reducing the time and labor required for chemical application. This can translate into cost savings for farmers and ranchers, as well as increased productivity and profitability.

Drone spraying technology can also be used to improve how well chemicals are applied. Drones can gather comprehensive data on crop and pasture health using high-resolution cameras and sensors, allowing farmers and ranchers to apply chemicals wisely. This can ensure that chemicals are used appropriately, improving their effectiveness and lowering the number of times they need to be applied.

Finally, drone spraying technology is a novel approach to crop and pasture management that has the potential to reduce chemical overuse and pollution. Drones can help reduce the amount of chemicals needed and the risk of pollution and human exposure by allowing chemicals to be put down in a more targeted and accurate way. In addition, drone spraying technology can lower costs, save time, and enhance the effectiveness of chemical application. So, it is a promising technology that could change the way farming and ranching are done and help make farming and ranching more sustainable in the future.


References

Croptracker - Drone Technology in Agriculture. (2022, September 29). Croptracker - Drone Technology In Agriculture. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://www.croptracker.com/blog/drone-technology-in-agriculture.html

Surveying With a Drone - What Are the Benefits and How to Start? | Wingtra. (n.d.). Wingtra. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://wingtra.com/drone-mapping-applications/surveying-gis/

Fertilizer Management of Pastures. (2021, November 10). Team Forage. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/forage/fertilizer-management-of-pastures/

Lime Is Critical for High Yielding Pastureland | Farm Progress. (n.d.). Farm Progress. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://www.farmprogress.com/crops/lime-is-critical-for-high-yielding-pastureland

Weed Control in Pastures and Hayfields | UGA Forage Extension Team. (2019, March 18). Weed control in pastures and hayfields | UGA Forage Extension Team. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://site.extension.uga.edu/forageteam/2019/03/weed-control-in-pastures-and-hayfields/




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