Masters Theses

Orcid ID

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Plant Sciences

Major Professor

Renata L.G. Nave

Committee Members

Song Cui, Gary E. Bates, David M. Butler, Vince R. Pantalone


Despite the vast production markets for forage and organic products nationally, so far limited work has been done to develop organic forages specifically for Middle Tennessee or the mid-South in general. The present organic research field focuses on vegetable and grain production; however, forage production offers an easier transition for producers moving into certified organic agriculture. The present study seeks to evaluate several forage blends for optimizing forage production under low-input transitional organic conditions. Ideally a forage system could be tailored to the beef cattle operations of Middle Tennessee, the dominant forage consumption market in this region of the mid-South. I hypothesize that organic forage production offers a sustainable pathway for beef cattlemen. This study is being conducted at the Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, in Spring Hill, TN. The forage selections consisted of the following: a tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus) monoculture, a bermudagrass (Cynodon dactlyon) monoculture, a tall fescue and alfalfa mixture (Medicago sativa), a bermudagrass and alfalfa mixture, and an annual rotation (winter wheat [Triticum aestivum] and winter pea [Pisum sativum] mixture rotated with a sorghum-sudangrass [Sorghum bicolor x Sorghum sudanese] and cowpea [Vigna unguiculata] mixture). Plots were established during the 2017-2018 growing season following a fallow orchard. Regular production measurements began in the 2019 calendar year when the plots achieved full organic certification status. On the basis of both agronomy and economics, the annual rotation is the optimal species selection for transitioning producers, though the tall fescue and tall fescue-alfalfa selections require reduced labor inputs and would better serve soil conservation outcomes, pursuant to the organic production paradigm.

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