Dirt Rich: The Value of Pasture Plant Diversity

“We want a vast array of solar collectors out there.” Kent Solberg and Doug Voss are striving to get as much plant diversity in their pastures as possible. The benefits for animal performance, soil microbes, profitability, resiliency, and the function of the ecosystem as a whole are exponential. In fact, “increase diversity” is the third principle of soil health. The latest episode of Dirt Rich, “The Value of Plant Diversity,” illustrates how making relatively small changes in the landscape can build health and resiliency in a number of ways on the farm.

Different plants offer different benefits at different times. Kent says that if given the opportunity, grazing animals will select from 30-75 different plant species for their meal. They are going after the unique phytochemicals that they need, which are produced by a variety of different plant species. Having a diverse array of plants available gives animals the ability to select exactly what they need at that time, and boosts their performance, nutrition, and health. Additionally, better animal performance means more nutrient-dense food for us as eaters.

Kent & Doug also remind us that grazing management, too, is a key part of encouraging plant diversity. Adjusting rest periods and stock density can produce the results you’re looking for without dropping a lot of money. Kent also describes in the episode how frost (or stomp) seeding and no-till techniques can help expand the diversity of the pasture. Doug notes that grazing is not only instinctive, it is a learned behavior as well. If animals haven’t grazed before, that will need to be factored into the management plan.

Listen in to Dirt Rich for the myriad ripple benefits that come with diversifying pasture plants: improved water quality downstream and for animals, reduced risk of nutrient runoff, fewer vet visits, more nutrient-dense food, financial resiliency, and more. Ready to make a change or two? Kent & Doug have pointers to help you get going.

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