Improving Carbon Sequestration through Bale Grazing and Keyline Cultivation

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $15,861.00
Projected End Date: 07/15/2024
Grant Recipient: Gaugler Farm and Ranch
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Erin Gaugler
Gaugler Farm and Ranch

Information Products


  • Miscellaneous: Carbon


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, livestock breeding, body condition
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration, soil stabilization, water quality
  • Production Systems: bale grazing
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil physics, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, quality of life, time savings

    Proposal summary:

    This project addresses resource concerns of land that was conventionally farmed and depleted. Though bale grazing has created environmental and economic benefits, water management continues to be a challenge. To accelerate the benefits of bale grazing, it was chosen to implement and demonstrate a practice that transforms water management.

    Keyline design was developed in the 1950s to address dwindling water supplies and soil erosion. The central idea from a water perspective is to capture water at the highest elevation and comb it out towards the ridges. The Keyline cultivator is a narrow tyne plow that loosens the sub-soil without inversion, transporting organic matter, from bale grazing and manure deposits, deeper into the soil. Water, air and organic matter feed microbiota which promotes carbon sequestration.

    Stored carbon is essential to agriculture and society, though CO2 is regarded as a greenhouse gas and a waste. Historic and conventional practices limit carbon sequestration, but with proper management, the ecosystem can store more carbon than any man-made infrastructure. Carbon storage benefits society and creates opportunities in the marketplace. We hope the combined effect of bale grazing and Keyline cultivation is storing carbon deeper into the soil profile, while accelerating healing and increasing forage production.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Evaluate the usefulness of bale grazing and Keyline cultivation to improve carbon sequestration and increase market opportunities for producers.
    2. Improve water management and reduce runoff through Keyline pattern cultivation.
    3. Monitor the impact of bale grazing and Keyline cultivation to improve forage production.
    4. Share findings to improve understanding of the carbon cycle and to demonstrate a producer-led means of carbon storage.
    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.