Submitted to: Hoard's Dairyman
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/20/2003
Publication Date: 12/20/2003
Citation: Sanderson, M.A., Goslee, S.C., Tracy, B.F. 2003. What's that growing in your pasture? Hoard's Dairyman. 148:11.
Technical Abstract: We visited farms in nine northeastern states during the growing seasons of 1998 to 2002 and identified and inventoried each and every plant species on at least two pastures per farm. Depending on the site, the inventory took from 2 to 4 hours per pasture. On a smaller subset of farms (36 pastures on 9 farms) we took soil samples from the pastures and determined what was in the seed bank by placing the soil in a greenhouse and letting the seeds in the soil germinate naturally. We identified 268 different kinds of plants in the pastures over the five years. The average number of plant species in each pasture was 30 and the maximum number we found in one pasture was 56. On most pastures, bluegrass, white clover, dandelion, and broadleaf plantain accounted for the majority of plant cover. Bluegrass and white clover also predominated in the seed bank with the equivalent of 2 lb/acre each of bluegrass and white clover seed in the soil. Despite the high frequency of white clover in pastures, it often contributed only about 10 to 15% of the forage yield in pastures. Many pastures had a variety of weed species present, but weeds typically were a small part of the pasture cover. On a few farms with the highest number of plant species, weeds were a problem and indicated poor pasture management. Few noxious weeds were found. These results indicate that pastures are more complex in species than many producers realize.