Native Warm Season Grasses For Adapting to Climate Change, Improving the Sustainability of Grazing Systems and Improving Water Quality in Tennessee
Walker, F. R., and P. D. Keyser.  2018.  Proceedings 73r SWCS International Annual Conference. July 29 to August 1st, 2018. Albuquerque NM.

The livestock industry is important to agriculture and the rural economy in the southeastern United States. Most beef cattle production is on permanent pastures that have a significant impact on the agricultural landscape. In many watersheds pastures also have a significant impact on water quality. Traditionally the forage base has been dominated by cool-season grasses such tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) and orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata). In recent years, Tennessee has been experiencing more variable rain distribution patterns, with more floods and periodic dry periods, or droughts during the summer months. This has impacted the beef industry in many ways. The University of Tennessee Extension and other partners are working to diversify the forage-base of our pasture systems in Tennessee. Work at the University of Tennessee has demonstrated that the inclusion of native warm season grasses (NWSG), such as Eastern Gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides), Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardi), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) into our forage systems, will not only provide livestock with a valuable forage during the warm summer months, but is an effective tool in managing forages during periodic dry periods and even drought. During intense summer rainfall events, the greater infiltration rates observed under NWSG systems greatly reduces the amount of runoff and thus soil erosion, the potential for local floods, and is another best management practice (BMP) for improving water quality and mitigating against the potential harmful effects of climate change in Tennessee. This presentation will summarize some of the on-going work at UT on promoting these systems in Tennessee. It is supported in part by a USDA NIFA Water for Agriculture grant awarded to the University of Tennessee to study the effects that climate change may have on agricultural production in the Tennessee and Cumberland River Basins in the coming decades.