Evaluating Pasture Climate Resilience Utilizing Wild Forb and Insect Biodiversity Related to Changing Soil Health

Project Overview

FNC20-1224
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $25,516.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Lincoln University Cooperative Extension-Innovative Small Farmers Outreach Program
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Susan Jaster
Lincoln University Cooperative Extension-Innovative Small Farmers Outreach Program

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Farm Business Management: risk management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: weed ecology
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    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:

      1. Utilize soil health analysis to compare soil health under regenerative practices long term to short term and to traditional small farm pasture management
      2. Utilize soil health analysis to quantify changes in soil health between years at each site
      3. Plant cover crops to help improve the soil health on five farms
      4. Collect and inventory insects to compare five farms
      5. Use Solvita CO2 test after grazing to quantify possible carbon sequestration representing water storage capacity
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.