What Do Plant Roots Do for Soil Health?

“Maximizing Living Roots” is the third principle of soil health and it's focused on feeding the soil. When I first saw this phrase, I confess--it struck me as a bit odd:  since living roots can’t exist without whole living plants, why not just say “maximize living plants?” After a while it dawned on me—if we had a monoculture of a single species of living plants with either short, fibrous roots or just deep taproots, we could potentially maximize living plants, but not necessarily roots.  In order to maximize living roots, we need the widest variety of plants growing together that the site can maintain (more on this next week when we cover diversity). Here's a nice illustration of the differences in plant roots among various types of plants.  When we have the maximum concentration and variety of plant roots, then we’ve truly maximized living roots:   So, what’s the big deal about roots, anyway?  Well, we’ve always known that roots are helpful in forming soil aggregates and weaving them together, and we knew that when roots decompose after a grazing event or a crop harvest, they provide food for all the organisms that live in the soil.  But we’re learning that roots are important because of the amazing things they do while a plant is actually growing. You see, plants were never designed to live as isolated, indiv

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 »