Managing Salinity With Forages – Lessons From a Grazier

This comes to us from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program's Learning Center. When Nebraska producer Teri Edeal purchased a quarter section of irrigated bottom ground and applied for SARE funds to experiment with cool-season irrigated grass mixes, her neighbors were her biggest skeptics. After all, they reasoned, that piece of ground measured about 8.5 to 9 on the pH scale, way too saline for plants to grow. Edeal – who works with her husband, Brian, to feed 3,500 yearlings up to finished weight for other owners each year – persevered, planting saline-tolerant varieties that could be grazed and eventually reduce the soil salinity. “Since 1998, we’ve grazed that pasture every year, and the neighbors have quit whispering to my husband,” Edeal says. “And that pasture has been a life-saver during this drought.” Edeal planted a complex mix that included tall wheatgrass, Garrison creeping foxtail, intermediate wheatgrass, Russian wildrye, orchardgrass, birdsfoot trefoil and Alsike clover. The species will thrive in saline soil, and even transfer the minerals that are toxic to other plants from the soil to their stems and leaves. When these plants are grazed or harvested for hay, the salinity leaves with the plant. Edeal may have reduced salinity, but s

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