Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: March 1, 2007
Publication Date: March 8, 2007
Citation: Sanderson, M.A. 2007. Plant species diversity and pasture management. Proceedings of the Forage Technology Conference, East Lansing, MI. P. 45-50. Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.
Technical Abstract: Farmers face many challenges in pasture management, such as evolving agri-environmental schemes to protect natural resources, and need new management techniques to remain sustainable. Ecological research indicates that increased plant biodiversity benefits ecosystem functions such as primary productivity, stability of production, and resistance to weed invasions in natural grasslands. The studies indicating benefits for plant diversity suggest that managing for increased plant species diversity on pasturelands (i.e., using complex mixed-species swards) could increase forage yield, improve yield stability, and reduce soil nutrient losses. The concept of using complex mixed-species swards (swards containing more than one species of grass and legume) is not new as evidenced by Darwin’s mention of growing several species of grasses to produce more herbage than growing one species alone. Practical farming texts in the late 1800s adopted Darwin’s insights and recommended the use of complex swards. More than a century later, new insights on the role of plant species diversity in the ecosystem function of natural grasslands has renewed interest in the use of greater plant species diversity in the form of complex mixtures of forages. In this presentation I review recent evidence from the agricultural and ecological sciences on how plant species diversity affects the ecosystem functions of managed grasslands such as temperate region pastures.