Mullenix said that incorporating rhizoma peanut in grass pastures is advantageous for farmers because of the myriad of benefits the perennial legume provides.

Rhizoma peanut produces high yields of high quality, nutritionally dense forage. Hay yields in Florida can range from 3-5 tons per year, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture.

The legume is well adapted to infertile soils and can establish itself in sandy or clay soils. It’s drought tolerant and persists even under heavy grazing.

In addition, it combines well with competitive grasses and faces few issues with pests and diseases. The legume also requires low maintenance once established and grows steadily at a rate of 5-30 cm per year in grass mixes.

In her research, Mullenix will strip-plant four rhizoma peanut cultivars — Florigraze, Ecoturf, UF Tito and UF Peace — into bahiagrass pastures to determine their adaptability and performance during the establishment phase, and their response to different levels of grazing intensity.

In addition, Mullenix also plans to measure the contribution of the legume to pasture systems through changes in soil quality, such as the effect on soil organic carbon, soil quality and other environmental benefits.

“Ideally, we want to determine which cultivar performs best using the strip-planting approach, which one fits the pasture system with bahiagrass the best and the benefit of using legumes to improve soil quality,” says Mullenix.

“We hope the results will provide specific and practical alternatives to nitrogen fertilizer for low-input livestock production in the Gulf Coast Region.”

Rhizoma peanut is grown extensively in Florida, as well as areas of the Deep South, including Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Other research participants include Ann Blount, University of Florida forage breeding and management Extension specialist; Maria Silveria, University of Florida soil scientist; Lynn Sollenberger, professor and associate chair of the University of Florida Agronomy Department; and Joe Vendramini, University of Florida forage specialist.

For more information on “Strategies for Increasing Rhizoma Peanut Contribution to Productivity and Ecosystem Services of Low-Input Pasture Systems,” log on to the national SARE projects database and refer to Project Number GS11-105.