Is your soil and forage healthy and absorbing rain and moisture? Grab your raincoat and talk a walk with Victor Shelton to see what your pasture tells you.
The amount of residue and/or forage residual left behind and how it stands makes an impact on runoff. The more retardance, something that breaks impact and slows movement, the less runoff. The more retardance, the more likely the increased intake or infiltration of water, unless the ground is frozen or compacted. Tightly grazed or overgrazed pastures have little retardance, so they also have increased runoff. Sadly, this also means poor plant stands, poor roots, and almost always, compaction. Lack of residue, live plants and roots with compacted layers restricting natural soil drainage are usually some of the muddiest areas under wet winter conditions. The combination usually means major pugging and mud.
We can limit compaction or reduce its impact by minimizing grazing and vehicular traffic under excessively wet conditions, maintaining good vegetative stop grazing heights, maintaining good live vegetative cover, and maintaining or increasing the organic matter over time by allowing adequate rest between grazing periods, which allows for more root growth. Increased root growth and turnover is key to increasing soil organic matter. A one percent increase in organic matter in the soil can increase the water holding capacity of that soil to the tune of about 14,000 gallons of water.
Source: Victor Shelton, February 13, 2017, On Pasture