I feel like I am living back in the 1950's with the types of questions I get from people when I tell them I feed fermented grass clippings to cows. In 1949, A.O. Smith created Harvestore Products Company to market the glass-fused-to-steel bolted tank technology in the agriculture market. The blue silo's of Harvestores became a common household name along with XEROX machines, Kleenex and Coke. Back in the 1950's the notion of packing green chop or corn into a silo while it was still wet and then allowing the biomass to ferment, pickle or the technical name "Ensiling" into silage was on everyone's mind. The first questions that were always asked back then by the farmers and the consumers were the concerns about the pesticides that were sprayed on, over, and around the corn plants from spring right up to harvest. Today, the first question we get asked are about the pesticides and fertilizers that are sprayed on and over the lawns. Does this sound familiar?
Back in the 1950's the chemical process of ensiling detoxified the biomass from pesticides making it safe to feed. Unless the same biological process the Egyptians used 3,000 years ago has changed, lawn clippings that have been sprayed with the different variations of 2,4-D formulations are predisposed to the same outcome as our traditional agricultural crops (corn, alfalfa) after they too, have undergone the ensiling process.
Plants suitable for silage production include tree leaves, barley, all turf type grasses like Bermuda grass, St. Augustine, Centipede, Rye, bluegrass, wheat, coastal Bermuda, oat grass, alfalfa, pasture grasses, corn, wheat, peas, Sudan grass, millet, sorghum, lambs quarter, wild oats, sweet clover, red clover, canola, fescue's and almost all other fodder types can be turned into livestock silage. And trust me when I say, rarely are agricultural crops 100% free from fertilizer or pesticide residue prior to ensiling! But then again, Ensiling makes the feed safe
Research has shown as early as the 1960's that the biological process of ensiling biomass with residual pesticide sprayed upon the biomass prior to harvesting if fact, ensiling degraded pesticides like DDT, Agent Orange, 2,4-5T, Dalpon, Silvex, Diazion, etc. which represented the worst of the worst of chemicals produced back in the 1950's. The exciting difference between the pesticides of the past and those used on turfgrass today, is that the pesticides today are far weaker in strength, rates and how they breakdown naturally in the environment (half life) can be measured in minutes or hours and not years and decades as was the case in the past.
YCC has a plan for Food Safety: We lay out very strict guidelines to landscapers, golf course superintendents or anyone wanting to build a business by turning grass clippings into Grass Clipping Silage. Here are just a few:
- Mowing companies must communicate with their customers to make sure they water their lawn prior to each weeks mowing.
- We recommend or discourage the use of certain pesticides to be used on turfgrass depending on the product label.
- Those users of the BioPac'r that wants to make and sell Grass Clipping Silage are required to seal their silage bags with YCC cable ties that are sequentially numbered and unique to each individual user; ie. landscapers, golf courses, etc.
- Record keeping is very important to accountability and food safety. The ID tag on the Pac'r Bag is associated with a list of lawns that were mowed that make up the feed in that particular bag.
Read the research cited here for yourself. (Effect of Ensiling on the Decomposition of Several Herbicides, Crop Science 1965)
Until Next time...