Changing Climate and increasing input costs combine to stress farmers ecologically, economically and socially. Regenerative grazing practices leading to better soil health can help farmers by increasing pasture biodiversity resulting in resilience to climate changes, reducing pasture input needs, increasing water storage capacity and reducing time farmers spend applying inputs. Measuring soil health is both costly and time consuming. We propose to assess whether wild forb and insect biodiversity and abundance can be used as surrogates in measuring soil health on farms where regenerative methods have been practiced for several years and where they are newly implemented. Cover crops will be used to improve soil health which should stimulate wild forb growth and insect species utilization of pastures. We will utilize modified Daubenmire frames to measure vegetation cover and species. We will measure insect diversity and abundance using sweep-net transects. Vegetation and insect measurements will be related to soil health measurements. We expect that increasing soil health will increase wild forb and insect biodiversity and abundance, while increased soil organic matter (soil carbon) would indicate greater water storage capacity.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Utilize soil health analysis to compare soil health under regenerative practices long term to short term and to traditional small farm pasture management
- Utilize soil health analysis to quantify changes in soil health between years at each site
- Plant cover crops to help improve the soil health on five farms
- Collect and inventory insects to compare five farms
- Use Solvita CO2 test after grazing to quantify possible carbon sequestration representing water storage capacity