Build Soils with Good Forage

You may have thought that planting a cover crop and leaving it alone until termination and planting of the cash crop is the best way to get all the soil benefits of the ground cover. Cover crops by themselves certainly improve soil biodiversity, soil organic matter levels (which influence tilth and moisture capacity), nutrient cycling, and weed suppression, among many other benefits. And usually less disturbance means soil life and structure has the chance to flourish. From a strictly soil health perspective, planting followed by mechanical harvest does defeat many of the soil improvement objectives of cover crops. Bringing animals out to graze the cover crop, however, may deliver even more soil health returns than a hands-off approach. Think of rich, deep prairie soils. What made them that way? A combination of the impacts of grazing herds of buffalo and extreme biodiversity. It’s not unusual for over 100 plant species to be evident in any given area of a prairie! Obviously, you can’t create a synthetic version of this system on your finite acreage, but it can’t hurt to come a little closer to the ideal. When grazing a cover crop, you close the nutrient cycle – similar to what you do when you plow a mature cover crop into the ground as green manure or spray and leave the residue to decompose. If managed right, grazing may actually be expediting this nutrient loop, since the deposition of manure and urine recharges soil organic matter and nutrients, argua

All the grazing management tips you need

Subscribe to read this article and over 2,500 more!

Subscribe today!

If you're already a subscriber, log in here.

Translate »