Mixing grasses in a forage field helps with soil biodiversity. Credit: Jesse Morrison
Mixing grasses in a forage field helps with soil biodiversity.

What are benefits of growing multiple types of forage grasses for grazing animals?

Buffet approach to forage benefits animals, soil and environment.

Grazing animals, such as cattle and sheep, should eat their legumes and brassicas. The Soil Science Society of America's Jan. 1 "Soils Matter" blog post explains how a variety of forage grasses benefits these animals as well as the soil and environment.

“Most of their grazing time, grazing animals are making decisions about what to eat with every bite,” said Jesse Morrison, a researcher with the department of plant and soil sciences at Mississippi State University. “Luckily for the animals, they don’t normally have only one option for their meal in a pasture setting. Growing multiple plant species in the same space at the same time -- polyculture -- is the norm in pasture grazing scenarios.”

Polyculture brings more nutrition to the grazing animals, as legumes like clover and alfalfa provide protein, while brassicas like turnips and kale round out their diet.

The benefits also extend to the soil. Those legumes supply nitrogen to the soil, and brassicas reduce soil compaction with their roots. In addition, a diversity of plants brings a diversity of soil organisms, insects, birds and other wildlife, Morrison said.

“The biodiversity of the entire grazing system is increased with polyculture, which is good for the environment," Morrison said. "What more could you ask for?”

To read the entire blog post, visit https://soilsmatter.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/what-are-the-ben…-grazing-animals/.

The Soil Science Society of America is an international scientific society that fosters the transfer of knowledge and practices to sustain global soils. Based in Madison, Wis., and founded in 1936, the society provides information about soils in relation to crop production, environmental quality, ecosystem sustainability, bioremediation, waste management, recycling and land use.

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