Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: February 1, 2007
Publication Date: June 24, 2007
Citation: Sanderson, M.A., Goslee, S.C., Bryant, R.B., Gonet, J.M. 2007. Soil nutrient levels within and among grazing farms in the Northeast USA. Proceedings of the American Forage and Grassslands Conference. June 24-27, 2007. State College, PA. CDROM. Interpretive Summary: Not applicable.
Technical Abstract: Many graziers and grazing advocates emphasize the environmental friendliness of grazing operations. Because of the perceived benefits of nutrient cycling and lower soil erosion on grazing farms, some producers may place a low priority on nutrient management. Soil nutrient levels are one indicator of the level of nutrient management on farms. Our objective was to gain some insight into the level of various soil nutrients on grazing farms across the northeastern USA. We used soil data collected as part of various farm surveys during the last 10 years to gauge the variation in soil nutrient levels within and among farms. We selected five farms for more intensive sampling and determined soil nutrient levels at 0-5 cm and 0-15 cm depths on samples from each paddock on each farm. The majority of pastures sampled had optimum to high levels of soil P and K. Nearly one-half of pastures were “high” in soil P and 20% had soil P levels greater than 100 ppm. Paddocks farthest from the barn tended to have lower soil P levels; however, there was a large range in soil P regardless of distance from the barn. More than 40% of paddocks had soil K levels in the “high” category. Soil K also tended to be lower in pastures farther from the barn. Nearly 60% of the pastures sampled had a low soil pH (between 5.1 and 6.4) indicating that liming may be beneficial on these pastures. Organic matter content varied widely and averaged about 5%. Variation among paddocks within farms was related to cropping history, manure management practices, and grazing management. Producers who have adopted intensive grazing management practices also need to implement appropriate nutrient management practices.