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New Research and Demonstration Projects Underway in 2003

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Beginning with this article, I would like to introduce the new research and demonstration projects that will be started in 2003. Since there 11 new projects this year, I will have to report on these over the next several articles, starting with those that began this spring. The information is organized alphabetically by the principle investigator of the study. Please note that meaningful conclusions cannot be drawn from these projects, in most cases, in less than two or three years from the time they start. Project updates will come as soon as the information is available.

Dooly Barlow began a high-density peach tree planting and training system demonstration in the fruit orchard at our Headquarters Farm. In February, we planted "Redhaven" peaches on Lovell rootstock in a 15-foot intra-row spacing (161 trees/acre), and in a 6.5-foot intra-row spacing (375 trees/acre). The high-density planting will be pruned so that only two main scaffolds (branches) will be allowed to grow into the adjacent row, producing a perpendicular "V" as you look down the row. This will demonstrate two production methods, one that is commonly used in our service area, and the perpendicular V (high-density) method, which has many benefits.

At the Wildlife Unit, John Holman is testing the use of a portable battery-powered electric fence energizer to aid beaver impoundment drainage. Beaver dams often occur in remote or inaccessible portions of properties, which can flood hayfields, pastures and pecan or oak bottoms. Drainage of beaver-created flood waters could substantially reduce agricultural losses. Beaver generally repair cut dams quickly, usually overnight, thus the need for a device to thwart dam repair. Physical devices installed on drain pipes or within the dam itself are often cumbersome, expensive, require frequent cleaning, are easily dammed and only offer temporary relief of floodwater. Lethal control devices often impact non-target species such as raccoon or river otter and can be labor intensive. A cost effective, easily portable barrier that prevents drainage cuts in beaver dams from being repaired could offer seasonal relief from beaver created floodwater.

Ryan Reuter, livestock specialist, began a new demonstration at the Pasture Demonstration Farm with the purchase of 90 cow-calf pairs last fall to demonstrate best management practices associated with a fall-calving cow herd. The typical restraint to maintaining fall-calving cows is reported to be high feeding costs in the winter. This project will demonstrate management for high production and low cost by using limit-grazing and creep-grazing of cool-season annual pasture, early-weaning, short breeding seasons, terminal sire breeds and body condition score management. Techniques for estrus synchronization and artificial insemination will be demonstrated. The calves produced will be sent to a commercial feedlot to obtain finishing and carcass performance data in order to highlight the importance of sire selection.

The final project I'll cover this month is being conducted by Steve Upson. He is looking at strawberry plant density in "plasticulture" production. Over the last decade, commercial strawberry growers have used tractor-formed, 30-inch wide beds, covered with black plastic mulch film, and with a single drip irrigation line in each bed. The plastic mulch eliminates mechanical or chemical weed control and warms the beds for earlier harvest in the spring. Previous work indicates that 40 inches is the width of choice for permanent raised beds in Oklahoma. We have also shown that the variety "Chandler" is high yielding in plasticulture systems, but our yields were half those reported by North Carolina growers. In this study, Chandler, "Camarosa" and "Treasure" varieties will each be planted in one of three plant density configurations on 40-inch beds; two rows 24-inches apart (inter-row spacing) and 12-inch intra-row spacing, or three rows 12-inches apart (inter-row spacing) and either 12- or 16-inch intra-row spacing. These planting configurations will result in equivalent plant densities of 17,424, 19,651 and 26,136 plants per acre, respectively.