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May 6, 2010 Volume 31, No. 30

Bobwhites and biofuels highlight field day

Helping the habitat

Workshops teach techniques to aid wildlife

Integrating Beef, Bobwhites and Biofuels,” a June 17 field day at the University of Missouri’s Bradford Research and Extension Center, will show how farmers can profitably manage livestock and grow biofuel crops while supporting wildlife and protecting soil and water.

The free event also will include basic and advanced workshops for farmers and landowners who want to make their land more hospitable to bobwhite quail. Wagon tours will cover such topics as landscaping with native plants, forage management native cool-season grasses and implementing wildlife practices on the farm.

The emphasis on biofuels at this year’s field day reflects growing concern about the impact on wildlife as more farmers convert pastures and marginal land to biofuel crops such as switchgrass, says Tim Reinbott, superintendent of Bradford Farm.

Densely growing switchgrass provides little space for animals to find food, tend their young and escape predators, Reinbott says. Switchgrass also needs plenty of nitrogen to thrive, and amending soil with commercial nitrogen fertilizer increases a field’s carbon footprint.

As an alternative to switchgrass monocultures, researchers at Bradford are growing demonstration plots that mix biofuel crops with legumes and forbs. Such mixtures provide wildlife with varied types of food and cover. They also can lessen the need for added nitrogen and other nutrients, reducing production costs and potentially shrinking the field’s carbon footprint.

Research in Minnesota suggests that mixtures of grasses, legumes and forbs actually can yield more biomass for fuel than monocultures of biofuel crops, Reinbott noted.

The 2010 field day also adds a second workshop on habitat management for bobwhite quail. As in previous field days, the basic workshop will provide an overview of techniques farmers can use to profitably integrate quail habitat on their land, and look at cost-sharing programs for farmers who adopt wildlife-management practices.

“The advanced workshop will go into much more detail on habitat practices on the farm,” says Bob Pierce, MU Extension fisheries and wildlife specialist.

The new workshop will provide in-depth guidance on using the Missouri Bobwhite Quail Habitat Appraisal Guide to help landowners assess the suitability of their property for providing quail habitat, Pierce says.