Define how terms pasture, soil and soil quality fit together. For pasture - available estimates of pasture acreages for the conterminous United States, with particular emphasis on USDA-NRCS’s 1997 National Resources Inventory (NRI), USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s 2002 Census of Agriculture and USGS’s 2001 National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD ’01). Also in pasture, a look at the different types of animals and forages that make pasture an extremely variable topic (think of the range from dairy to sheep to horses). The unique nature of perennial sod based agriculture, with an emphasis on how the state/transition models in use for rangeland might transfer to pasture. For soil - emphasis on the unique properties that determine their use as pasturelands, particularly the interplay of Land Capability Class and productivity. For soil quality - emphasis on the dynamic vs. inherent nature of soil properties.
Operational management aspects of pasture will be examined from the farmer’s perspective. Is the livestock operation the primary source of income? What market –beef, dairy, wool, etc. -is the operation aiming to participate in? Does the producer try to influence the market? What energetic, time and financial resources does the producer bring to bear in the operation? Interconnectivity and feedback between the farmer and the society at large will be emphasized. How does population size affect livestock farming? How does the gathering action on greenhouse gas mitigation stand to affect livestock producers?
Potential soil quality problems, in light of operational considerations, will be examined. Difference of erosion on pastures vs. cropland will be explored. NRI experiences with estimation of erosion shows that assumptions are made in estimating cover. Also, there will be a discussion of grazed woodlands. Observation of cow/calf pastures in Georgia shows that often the worst erosion occurs off of the grass areas, in the woods where cattle go for water. Consideration of water relations within the soil profile will be given. Compaction will be treated of here. Organic matter dynamics of pasture will be explored. Soil chemistry relations will be considered, with special emphasis on pastures as disposal sites for confined animal waste.
Potential solutions to soil quality problems of pastures will be given. The documents Guidelines for Soil Quality Assessment in Conservation Planning and the NRCS National Range and Pasture Handbook will be the base for this section. We will use a case study from Georgia of a farm that faced multiple operational challenges (development pressure, poultry waste disposal, rental tenure) resulting in severe resource problems (erosion, plant pest invasions, impaired water quality in former center-piece ponds) and chose to use a broad suite of NRCS and other conservation programs to address the issues.
Link to Presentation (pdf; 22MB)
Daniel Wallace - Daniel Wallace is Georgia's State Resource Inventory Coordinator for NRCS in Athens, Georgia. Dan trained in Soil Ecology at the University of Georgia. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with an ecology focus and a Master’s Degree in Agronomy with a soils focus. Dan started working for NRCS in 1994. He has worked as Soil Conservationist in three field offices in the Piedmont MLRA of Georgia, with the longest tenure being five years in Watkinsville. Dan has been the NRI specialist for Georgia since 2003.