Location: Plant Science Research
Title: Forages, Soil Quality, and Sustainability Author
Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: June 23, 2013
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Ecosystem services of forages are diverse and widespread. This presentation was made to a group of Iowa Forage and Grassland Council members as an overview of how forages contribute to soil quality and agricultural sustainability. Ecosystem functions of forages included: (a) sustaining viable plant cover, (b) cycling and retaining globally important nutrients, such as storing N in soil and releasing it for later root uptake and storing carbon in soil and reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide, (c) supporting efficient cycling of water and nutrients, (d) protecting water quality, (e) providing physical stability to the landscape, (f) enabling animal habitat and promoting biodiversity, and (g) buffering against toxic element accumulation and transport. The effects of land use (i.e. forestry, cropland, and grazing land) on soil organic carbon was reviewed, including spatial and temporal effects, as well as the effects of type of forage management on soil organic carbon. Impacts of forage management on water infiltration and nutrient runoff were also described. Lastly, impacts of grazing animals on soil physical properties (compaction and aggregation) were considered. This overview illustrated that we can expect positive changes in soil aggregation, nutrients, and organic matter under grass-based systems, the extent of which is dependent upon environmental conditions and previous condition of the land.