We can improve the soil faster with animals than
Bill Bryan got the subject started when he told us that
he has soil data showing small gains in pH and P over 8
years with nothing but grazing (sheep and goats). He is
impressed as much with the qualitative improvement in
appearance as with the quantitative changes. The site is in
West Virginia, under a power line, where one objective is to
study alternatives to herbicides for brush control. There
was no tillage or mechanical brush control.
Discussion turned general, and we began wondering about
the relative merits (for soil fertiliy) of grazing crop
stubbles versus merely incorporating them directly as
organic materials. This is a bit different from the
research we were discussing, since the system includes
tillage and crop production.
At issue: is there any benefit to soils from cycling
the crop stubbles through animals?
Bill's data show pH change from 4.8 to 5.1, and
available P from 32 to 36, over 8 years. Trace minerals and
salt were the only inputs. Can readers provide
corroboration or contradiction in similar circumstances?
Generally, we would like to hear from others interested
in soil fertility and renovation, animal impact on soils,
and farming systems.
West Virginia farmers will be asked what they think on
this an other topics in upcoming research by John Mutchka,
our fourth bag-luncher today. His subject includes farm
management and farming-system ecology.
Mutchka is a graduate student in anthropology. Kunkel
is an animal scientist and veterinarian. Bryan is a pasture
agronomist. I am an anthropologist and forager. Our bag-
lunch meeting has been going for more than three years.
I've been singing the praises of SANET-MG to them for
many months, so they invited me to submit this comment on
their behalf. Our bag-lunch meeting has been going for more
than three years. If you are in the area, SANETTERS are
especially invited to join us any Wednesday at noon in
Agricultural Sciences 1011. We will share whatever is in
our brown bags that day.