Loading...
You are here:  Home  >  The Classic by NatGLC  >  Current Article

Fourteen-Foot Long Roots – That’s What Great Grass Farmers Grow!

By   /  July 3, 2017  /  Comments Off on Fourteen-Foot Long Roots – That’s What Great Grass Farmers Grow!

    Print       Email

We shared this article the first time in November of 2015. What I think we all love about it is getting to see what’s going on underground with the plants that are growing in our pastures. Enjoy!

If you go to enough workshops about grazing, you’re bound to see an illustration that shows how biting off the tops of plants impacts their roots, and how if you graze short enough, the plant won’t have enough roots to rebound and produce more leafy material. In fact, if you’ve been with us at On Pasture for any length of time, you’ll have seen a version of that illustration. It looks like this:

1a1a1a1apix2

In addition to losing the ability to feed your livestock, short roots can’t hold the soil in place, let alone do their job of feeding soil microorganisms, creating a sponge to hold water, and pulling carbon from the air deep, deep into the soil where it can be sequestered. It’s that depth that makes the difference between carbon that “breathes” back and forth between the soil and the atmosphere, and carbon that is actually held long term.

So what do we mean by deep? Well, it turns out that many plants and icebergs have something in common. What you see above the surface is very small compared to what’s below.  And now, thanks to Jerry Glover, who’s an agroecologist from Kansas, and Jim Richardson, a National Geographic photographer, you can get a good idea of the depths roots go to to do their jobs. You can read about the techniques they used to create these photos here, but what we’d like you to focus on is how far down into the earth you’re managing when you move your livestock across a pasture. Take a look:

Switchgrass

Switchgrass

Here's Dr. Jerry Glover next to a 14 foot tangle of Indian grass, compass plant, and big bluestem grass he grew.

Here’s Dr. Jerry Glover next to a 14 foot tangle of Indian grass, compass plant, and big bluestem grass he grew.

Missouri Goldenrod…which by the way is quite a nice forage!

Missouri Goldenrod…which by the way is quite a nice forage!

(For more pictures, head on over to the full article.)

natglc-logo-1Thanks to the National Grazing Lands Coalition for making this article possible. Click on over to see the great work they do for all of us. Thank them for supporting On Pasture by liking their facebook page.

Save

Save

    Print       Email

About the author

editor and contributor

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

You might also like...

Low on Forage? Early Weaning is a Good Option.

Read More →