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Cattle and sheep relish nutritious globemallow.

Globemallow, a hardy plant with brilliant orange-red flowers, might be a perfect addition to a drought-tolerant garden. It may also provide a new food choice for sheep and cattle.

"Livestock are like humans--they like variety in their diets," says Melvin D. Rumbaugh, a plant geneticist in the Agricultural Research Service's Forage and Range Research Unit in Logan, Utah.

Because globemallows bloom from spring until the first frost, they can lengthen the grazing season. "That means ranchers could spend less money on hay to supplement sparse fall forage," adds Rumbaugh.

Globemallows belong to the Melvacea, or mallow, family which includes cotton, hollyhocks, and marshmallows--a pink-flowered herb from Europe, (The sticky, sweet confections of the same name originally contained ground-up marshmallow roots.)

Native to North America, globemallows grow wild in the western states, from Arizona to the Canadian border, but would probably do well in many arid or semiarid environments, says Rumbaugh. "These plants can get by on as little as 6 inches of rain a year," he says, "so they're a perfect addition to a drought-tolerant landscape or garden. And their bright color makes them an attractive ornamental."

Sheep will eat both flowers and leaves of globemallows, according to the results of a 4-year grazing trial near Kimberly, Idaho. In the spring, sheep ate globemallows as readily as crested wheatgrass and alfalfa two common pasture Species, Globemallows will grow, however, where it's too dry for alfalfa, says soil scientist Henry F. Mayland.

Mayland, with the ARS Soil and Water Management Research Unit in Kimberly, helped Rumbaugh with the grazing trials.

Globemallows may also remedy a serious problem in cattle known as grass tetany, or hypomagnesemia. Caused by a magnesium deficiency, the ailment usually occurs in early spring when cattle graze on fresh, tender young grasses that often contain an imbalance of nutrients that diminish magnesium availability.

Roughly 3 percent of cattle in temperate rangelands display the chronic symptoms of grass terany: reduced weight gain and lowered milk production. In rare, acute cases animals suffer tremors, coma, or even death.

Globemallows, like alfalfa, contain enough magnesium and calcium to meet the dietary needs of both cattle and sheep, says Mayland. "So seeding globemallow along with crested wheatgrass may reduce cases of grass tetany."

USDA's Soil Conservation Service (SCS) is interested in planting globemallows along roadsides, notes Rumbaugh. Because some species put out underground stems, or rhizomes, they spread quickly--a feature that helps stabilize soil on sloped roadbanks.

Rumbaugh plans to identify and breed globemallow varieties that are most promising as forage plants. He hopes to make seeds of these varieties available to plant nurseries within the next 2 years. They in turn would supply seeds to agencies responsible for rangeland seeding, such as USDA's Forest Service, SCS, and the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management.

Other varieties may be released for landscaping and gardening.--By Julie Corliss, ARS.

Melvin D. Rumbaugh is at the USDA-ARS Forage and Range Research Laboratory, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-6300. Phone (801) 750-3077, fax number (801) 750-3075. Henry F. Mayland is in the USDA-ARS Soil and Water Management Research Unit, 3793 N. 3600 E., Kimberly, ID 83843. Phone (208) 423-6517, fax number (208) 423 -6555.
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Title Annotation:drought tolerant plant good for livestock
Author:Corliss, Julie
Publication:Agricultural Research
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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