Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 19, 2008
Publication Date: January 26, 2008
Citation: Goslee, S.C. 2008. Pasture Condition Score Indicators: Controls on Plant and Forage Diversity. American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings. AFGC-SRM Annual Meeting Program Abstract #1963. CDROM Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.
Technical Abstract: The USDA-NRCS Pasture Condition Score (PCS) system was developed for evaluating pastures and making management recommendations. Four of the ten rating criteria relate to plant species diversity and composition: percent desirable plants, plant cover, plant diversity, and percent legume. Baseline data on pasture plant communities was collected in 130 pastures on 44 grazing farms located throughout the northeastern United States over an eight-year period. The average pasture contained 32 species (9-73 per quarter-acre plot). Forage species richness ranged from 3-12 per plot, with an average of 8 forage species (always less than 30% of the total richness), but made up most of the plant cover in the majority of the pastures sampled (average 70%, range 2-100%). Legumes made up 5% of the total plant cover (range 0-62%). Pasture plant species diversity and composition were partially explained by climate, topography, soil variables and surrounding land use (up to 50%). Percent legume was the lowest single indicator overall, suggesting that understanding and manipulating pasture plant communities will lead to improvements in pasture condition. While management factors appear to explain the largest proportion of the variation in plant community composition, site factors are also important, and must be taken into account when evaluating pastures and making management recommendations.