An Intro to Improving Soil Quality for Pasture Sustainability

Explore the introduction to improving soil quality for better pastures and a healthier herd.

 

Soil quality is an important topic in all areas of agriculture, and we’re still learning about what creates that rich, fertile soil that grows high-quality crops. See recommendations below from a South Florida Beef-Forage Program article on managing soil quality for increased pasture sustainability and health.

Soil Health and Soil Quality

 

The article maintains the importance of soils, sharing that “soils can also support other important functions such as environmental protection, biodiversity habitat, water relations, and waste recycling. They also mediate many ecological processes that can have important direct impacts on the global water cycle and climate.”

In comparing soil health and soil quality, the article shares that, “soil health describes the biological integrity of soil microbial community while soil quality refers to the ability of soils to support specific functions such as nutrient cycling, resilience and resistance, buffering filtering, and so forth.” Some soil quality definitions include:

  • USDA, National Resources and Conservation Service: “the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.
  • The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA): “the capacity of a soil to function within ecosystem boundaries to sustain biological productivity, maintain environmental quality, and promote plant and animal health (SSSA, 2008).”

Soil Quality Terms

 

  • Soil Testing. “Routine soil testing, for instance, was designed to identify nutrient deficiencies and inadequate soil pH conditions that may negatively affect crop production. It was also intended to determine nutrients that are present at adequate levels in the soil, providing an opportunity to eliminate unnecessary soil amendment applications.”
  • Soil Organic Matter. ”Research has demonstrated that soil organic matter can play an important role in determining the quality and performance of soils in many intensive agriculture systems (in many cases more so than routine soil testing alone). Land managers intuitively know that some fields perform better than others. Farmers often rely on visual assessment to judge the quality or condition of the field such as changes in soil color associated with organic matter accumulation or water accumulation, presence of invasive species, and crop performance. Research conducted by Gruver and Weil (2007) indicated a strong relationship between farmer’s perception of soil quality and soil carbon-related properties. This observation supports the idea that soil organic matter plays an integral role in the preservation of soil quality with subsequent positive impacts on crop production.

In terms of pasture sustainability and herd health, soil quality becomes a marker of sorts to know if what is being done is within “best management practices” or not. The article maintains, “current research has demonstrated that pasture management practices such as stocking rate, grazing method, and fertilization regimen can affect the amounts of soil organic matter, soil structure, and water and nutrient holding capacity.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.