What Do Different Plants Tell Us About Our Soils and How to Improve Them?

Greg Brann, Natural Resources Conservation Service Grazing Specialist in Tennessee, recently sent some information out to his local farmers about "indicator plants" along with some tips for how to use that information to improve soil health and pasture quality.  It's good information for everyone to consider. What Are Indicator Plants? Indicator Plants are plants that, by their presence or abundance, can help us assess the quality of the site and what’s occurring below the surface. The chart below describes what the plants you see are telling you about what’s happening below the surface. (Click on the chart to get a larger, more readable version.)   Now that you've got this information, here's what you can do with it: Compacted Soils You need more roots, both fibrous and tap roots. Start by maintaining living roots in your soil year-round by allowing plants to recover longer between grazing and mowing so that roots can recover as well. All plants help reduce issues with compaction but the following plants are especially known for decreasing soil compaction: Cool season annuals: forage radish and cereal rye Cool season perennials: alfalfa, chicory, red clover and sweet clover Warm season annuals: sorghums Warm season perennials: native warm season grasses like big bluestem, little bluestem, indiangrass, switchgrass and eastern gamagrass. Bermudagrass is tolerant of overgrazing and rather drought tolerant but doesn’t have as deep a root system as

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4 thoughts on “What Do Different Plants Tell Us About Our Soils and How to Improve Them?

  1. Hi. I build my own compost piles. Compost is an important resource and can drastically change the results of a garden. It is best to add compost to soil a week before plant. Thanks so much for your article. That’s what i need.

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