Pasture Aeration to Improve Production
Soil compaction, caused by cattle walking in moderate to highly eroded pastures after a rainfall, decreases moisture penetration into soil and increases water runoff.
Objective: To investigate how aeration influences soil and grass growth in Iowa pastures.
The producer compared soil quality, nutrient content and grass production of test plots. One pasture has been aerated for six years, and two pastures were first aerated for this project. Each plot contains a non-aerated control strip. The pastures are part of a 260-acre rotational grazing system, on which 85 cow/calf pairs and 36 heifers graze.
Results: Aerated plots showed an average improvement of 53% in yields over control strips. However, no significant difference was recorded in forage quality or soil nutrient content.
In aerated soil, average infiltration rates were 16 minutes faster and average root mass increased nearly 1/2 gram. More water and oxygen was able to penetrate and be retained in the aerated plots.
With data in mind, the producer assumes decomposing grass and manure should be able to infiltrate aerated soil six to eight inches. This humus will then enhance water retention, bacterial activity and root penetration, which will ultimately lead to higher forage yields.