More for Less in Pasture

Thanks to the Soil Science Society of America and Susan Fisk for this great article. Getting more for less is an attractive concept. But it isn’t that easy when it comes to producing more food on less land with fewer resources. R. Howard Skinner has been researching this idea of more for less in agriculture. Skinner is a physiological plant ecologist and member of the USDA-ARS-Pasture System and Watershed Management Research Unit. He’s been looking into how to increase the amount of forage (grasses and plants that animals eat) pastures can grow. If a piece of land can produce more forage, it can feed more cows. More cows mean more beef and milk. Previous studies suggest incorporating multiple types of plants in pastures is an effective way to increase the amount of forage. However, these studies varied in length. It hasn’t been possible to say for sure what long-term effect using multiple types of plants has on forage production. To learn more, Skinner spent nine years tracking the progress of multispecies pastures. Skinner and his team at Pennsylvania State University Hawbecker Farm planted eight experimental paddocks. They planted four paddocks with orchard grass and white clover. Another four paddocks had a combination of chicory, orchardgrass, tall fescue, white clover, and alfalfa. When the plants reached a certain height, cows grazed in the paddocks. The researchers collected samples of the forage before and after the cows grazed. This helped them e

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