Power to the Pasture

With last week’s balmy un-February-like weather, I was watching the grass carefully.  Despite the warm air, ground temperatures remained cold and most of the pastures remained dormant.  But not uniformly dormant.

Note the contrast in the left and right side of the image.  The left is where the cattle ate a hay bale last March.  The right side is the normal grass in the field.  This field has been grazed three times; before that the field had been hayed for many years in a net-export environment that didn’t do much to return fertility to the field.  The contrast in the photo tells me a few things:

  1. The combination of cattle and bale grazing definitely adds fertility to a field.
  2. Last fall when the cattle came through this field, that spot was already more fertile (hence tastier grass), as evidenced by long residuals they left behind on the right versus the short cropping on the left.
  3. Increased fertility leads to a much earlier startup of photosynthesis as the green versus brown contrast shows.

Like I mentioned in a previous post, this is an encouraging indication that the farm soil biology is improving.  As the soil comes into better balance, the bacterial and mycorrhizal life are functioning at a higher level, expanding the operating window for our soils.  I’ve heard before that good grazing management can effectively extend the growing season by allowing plants to be more active more days of the year, but this is the first year I’ve seen such strong evidence for it in spots over the farm.

Do I hear the skeptical grumble that I’m just looking for evidence to support my presuppositions?  Alright, I’ll agree that I’m a non-objective observer.  Aren’t we all?

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