Does rotational grazing improve soil quality?

Authors: Tindall Ouverson*, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina, C. Brannon Andersen, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina
Topics: Anthropocene, Soils, Environmental Science
Keywords: intensive rotational grazing, pastures, soil organic carbon, soil organic nitrogen, soil quality
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Degraded soils, caused by unsustainable agriculture, are a significant challenge to agriculture in the 21st century. Regenerative agroecological practices seek to repair this damage by restoring soil quality. The combination of intensive rotational grazing and no-till planting of fodder crops is a proposed method to improve soil quality by increasing the amount of soil organic matter in degraded soils. At Greenbrier Farms in Upstate South Carolina, 80 of 152 locations were resampled in 2016 and 2017 to determine if soil quality had improved after five years of intensive rotational grazing. Soil cores and soil profiles were collected to measure changes in soil color, A horizon thickness, texture, soil organic carbon (SOC) and soil organic nitrogen (SON). Generally, soil color of the A horizon has changed from red to brown or reddish brown since 2012, and A horizon thickness increased significantly for all management areas and soil series. SON stocks increased significantly from 2012 to 2017 for two of four management areas, but SOC stocks showed little change, with any increases occurring at 15-20cm and below. Stratification ratios for both SOC and SON stocks increased in only two of seven soil series. After five years, intensive rotational grazing in combination with no-till planted fodder crops has improved the soil structure and increased A horizon thickness. However, increases in SOC stocks will take more time, though increases in SON stocks are promising.

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