Diverse perennial grasslands include plants that can grow most months of the year: cool season grasses, warm season grasses, and flowering forbs. And in croplands, cover crops can keep live roots in the soil during dormant periods before planting and after harvesting.
Keeping continual live plant roots in our farmland, rangelands, and pastures harvests CO2 and sunlight and has multiple benefits:
Biodiversity benefits the soil food web, improves rainfall infiltration and nutrient cycling, and reduces diseases and pests.
Our native soils evolved, were built over geological time, and received carbon exudates (food) from polycultures: diverse perennial plants harvesting sunlight and carbon dioxide. Human settlement and agriculture drastically changed this picture. Our soils now often receive carbon exudates from a far less diverse landscape or even from monocultures: just one annual plant at a time. This limits soil fertility and reduces habitat for many living organisms.
We can improve our rangelands and pastures by mimicking original plant communities. There are many ways to do this, such as growing diverse crops and using crop rotations and cover crops.
Why return livestock to the land?
Soil disturbance occurs in different forms:
Can we reverse these impacts and improve soil function? Yes, we can! Minimizing soil disturbance is a good way to start rebuilding soil aggregates, pore spaces, soil glue, and organic matter.