Roots Need Rest to Reach Resources: Managing for Pastures for Year-Long Forage, Part 1

Editors Note: There is a LOT of great information for farmers and ranchers out there already, and one of the things we like to do at On Pasture is find it, condense it or pull out the parts that we think will get you started, and then give you the link so that you can read more if you like. This piece comes to us from Greg Cuomo, of University of Minnesota's College of Food Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and Kirby Hettver, a former UMN Extension Educator who now manages his family farm full time. It's part of the UMN's home study course for beef producers. Normally in spring, pasture growth keeps up or keeps ahead of grazing animals. Under continuous grazing or high stocking rates, once summer comes and pastures get grazed down, they never seem to quite recover. This is for a reason. One must remember that half of the pasture is beneath the soil (the roots). When a plant is grazed, the plant tops (leaves) are removed. What we sometimes don’t think about is that those leaves are feeding the whole plant (from the sun by photosynthesis). The plant compensates for top removal by sloughing off roots. When plant tops get shorter because we graze them, plant roots also get shorter. If plant tops are kept short, plant roots will also be short. A short root system can’t explore very much of the soil for moisture or nutrients. When soil starts to dry, it does not take very long before the dry line in the soil is deeper than the plant roots. Even if fer

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One thought on “Roots Need Rest to Reach Resources: Managing for Pastures for Year-Long Forage, Part 1

  1. Plant roots reduce growth if they are defoliated more than 50%. In Spring, each successive grazing should have higher and higher residual, by summer (with cool seasons forages) we want to leave 5 inches behind this shades the soil from direct sun and keeps soil a more ideal temperature and reduced evaporative losses. Too little residual in summer and soil temps can be 20 degree higher creating more stress on the plants.

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