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WRITING

Sharpen your plant identification skills to graze with bigger goals in mind

Take a closer look at the plants in your pasture to make and mark regenerative progress.


Most ranchers are skilled at spotting the types of plants they don’t want – the invasives or non-desirables – from a mile away. But Noble Research Institute advisors challenge land managers to instead start looking for the plants they do want, and then manage for more.


“Our plants tell us a lot about the management that has occurred on the landscape,” Noble regenerative ranching manager Josh Gaskamp says. For better or worse, “If we have a deeper understanding of the types of plant we have, we have a fuller picture of if our management is leading us in a good direction or not.”


Gaskamp and Noble regenerative ranching advisor Will Moseley say that being able to identify the species and functional groupings of the plants you have on your ranch is key.

“If we want to get closer to grazing 365 days a year – with the aim to be more self-sufficient, reduce costs, become more profitable – we have to be able to identify and manage for the kinds of plant species we really want out there,” Gaskamp says.


KNOW YOUR CONTEXT

If your primary grazing goals are to utilize and enhance native pastures, start with research on what the primary native grass species would be in your state or ecoregion. That might be as simple as a Google search of “native grasses in the Nebraska Sandhills” or “native grass species for Cross Timbers, southern Oklahoma” or “native plant species in Kansas Flint Hills.”


The Southern Great Plains, particularly the regions of Texas and Oklahoma where Noble has traditionally focused research efforts, have what they call ‘The Big Five’: Indiangrass, big bluestem, little bluestem, switchgrass and eastern gama grass.


“If you’re managing native pastures in the Southern Great Plains, these are likely the grasses you want to be shooting for,” Gaskamp says. “They have the highest production capacity; they have the deepest root systems; they’re best at building soil; and they thrive in the natural systems and cycles of that region.”


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