Monday, November 13, 2006 - 10:20 AM

Utilization of Forages by Wildlife.

Twain Butler1, M.D. Porter2, R.L. Stevens2, and J.P. Muir3. (1) The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, The Noble Foundation, 2510 Sam Roberts Pkwy., Ardmore, OK 73401, (2) The Noble Foundation, 2510 Sam Noble Pkwy., Ardmore, OK 73401, (3) Texas A&M Univ. Soil & Crop Science, 1229 North US Hwy 281, Stephenville, TX 76401

Interest in growing forages for wildlife has increased dramatically.  In 2001, it was estimated that 82 million US citizens participated in wildlife recreation and spent more than 70 billion US dollars on fishing and hunting.  There are at least 4820 species of vertebrate wildlife species in North America, each with unique habitat and nutritional requirements.  This presentation will summarize food habit studies and report on forage legumes that benefit the three prominent game species (white-tailed deer, bobwhite quail, and morning dove) in Texas and Oklahoma.  The primary importance of forages are the habitats that these create followed by the food (forage and seed) consumed by wildlife.  Forages also attract insects, which are components of certain avian species’ diets.  Native legumes are a prime example of forages currently being developed for commercial wildlife applications. Legumes can play an important nutritional role for wildlife, but little is known regarding their production and management.  Currently research is being conducted on only a few native species that may have both livestock and wildlife value.  Basic agronomic questions must be addressed before commercialization takes place.  Researchers in Texas and Oklahoma are working to identify native warm-season legume germplasm with commercial potential including prairie restoration, CRP plantings, right-of-way revegetation, rangeland restoration, wildlife food plots, and cultivated pastures.  Specific studies address appropriate rhizobia requirement, soil pH, P, and K requirements, forage and seed yield potentials, responses to defoliation, and herbicide tolerance.  The primary bottleneck to commercializing these native legumes is their indeterminate flowering and dehiscent seed pods, both ideal for survival in natural settings, but deterrents to efficient mechanized seed harvest.  These and other factors must be addressed before native or exotic forages can be fully utilized.