Balanced grazing practices lower carbon gas emissions

The health of rangelands carry a large importance in the agricultural industry and in effort to improve and educate, Leduc County...

The health of rangelands carry a large importance in the agricultural industry and in effort to improve and educate, Leduc County and West-Central Forage Association held a pasture and feed resources seminar on April 19.

Keynote speakers Ed Bork, range ecology and management, University of Alberta and Grant Lastwika, livestock and forage business specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, both spoke on a variety of rangeland health subjects and good grazing management practices.

Bork’s presentation leaned heavily toward carbon storage and he tied many other aspects of grazing management back to the subject.

Right from the beginning Bork told those who attended the seminar he was disappointed with the lack of value being placed on grasslands as a carbon sink, as there are many other far-reaching benefits stemming from that potential.

Bork was part of a research team conducting an extensive study regarding how grasslands can serve as a net uptake for the gasses. Across several provinces, up to 114 grassland sites managed by Alberta Environment and Parks were studied under different tests and variables.

Bork says the sites, ranging from 15 to 70 years old, were observed for carbon and grazing management and the links between the two.

Grasslands store between 10 to 30 per cent of the world’s organic carbon pool, and temperate grasslands cover eight per cent of the Earth’s surface, says Bork. “And they store more than 300 gigatonnes of carbon. Nine gigatonnes of this is basically in plants. The majority is below ground, in soil.”

In the prairie region, native grasslands were found to store 80 tonnes per hectare while cropland stores 60 tonnes per hectare. In the parkland region, 120 tonnes per hectare was found in the grassland and 70 tonnes under the cropping system.

“Where is that carbon today? It’s back in the atmosphere, contributing to rising CO2. So I would argue this represents a very significant benefit to society,” said Bork. “When people think about global warming they only think about the burning of fossil fuels,” he added.

Along with helping to keep moisture retained in the soil which is crucial during drought periods Bork says minimal and no tilling procedures help maintain ground carbon levels.

^

^

“It’s amazing how many people that are living in our cites and towns do not understand this stuff When we look at a picture of a perennial grassland they just see something that’s wasteland, there’s nothing out there. It’s not true at all,” said Bork.

“There’s a whole plethora of environmental goods and services that they are benefiting from we haven’t done a good job getting that message across to those people,” he added.

Within the study, plant diversity peaked in areas with moderate to high rainfall and regions such as parkland and foothills; continuing to reveal a higher diversity when there was more grazing on their grasslands. “This is not surprising If you remove grazing for a long period of time you find stagnation in the plant community,” said Bork.

In the areas with moderate to high rainfall, grazing also helped introduce new plants to the grasslands. The increased diversity leads to boosted plant production and carbon storage. Bork added drier lands were more resistant to plant introduction.

“Grazing is actually critical to help maintain the ongoing function of these areas including providing forage production. Without it you actually lose productivity,” said Bork.

Long-term grazing exposure also helps protect the sustainability of grasses growing on the grasslands by reducing shrubbery. “Cattle are a natural biological control agent to keep shrub encroachment in check,” said Bork.

Grazing without over grazing was found to promote plant health and root growth of plants, which is critical in maintaining the grasslands systems; once again suggesting a link between grazing and carbon storage, says Bork.

“Grasslands provide far more than just forage production,” he added. Along with carbon storage they also serve as a water purification system, flood mitigation, wildlife habitats and encourage pollination.

“Grazing is a full functioning system and as a full functioning system, everything relates,” said Lastwika. He explained a healthy system can be broken up into individual variables: 40 per cent management, 40 per cent environment and 20 per cent species.

When it comes to grazing management, Lastwika says there needs to be a balance between forage supply and animals needs. “The balance really focuses on biological rest.”

Over-grazing reduces pasture productivity in the long-term; by leaving more than 50 per cent of a plant’s above ground mass there is almost no negative impact to the root systems. “That’s why it’s important when we graze these plants, our frequency and severity are considered.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday that the province was ready to move forward with Phase 2A and B in the coming weeks. (Photo by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
COVID restrictions for retail, sports and performers further eased

Occupancy in stores and malls boosted to 25 per cent from 15 per cent

Advocate file image
Red Deer COVID cases continue to decline

249 cases in Red Deer, down from 565 peak on Feb. 22

A SAGA member (left) poses as Jessi Hanks (right) with Castle Restaurant puts up a safe space sticker to display on the restaurant’s front door. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
SAGA Wetaskiwin works with local businesses to display they are a safe space

The safe space stickers show that its a safe and inclusive space.

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during their appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta Appeal Court orders 3rd trial for parents in toddler’s meningitis death

Stephans were accused of not seeking medical attention sooner for Ezekiel, who had meningitis when he died

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Vaccine hesitancy decreases in B.C. as mass immunizations set to begin: poll

Two-thirds of British Columbians, and Canadians, would get the vaccine as soon as possible

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

Poll results themselves underscore the challenge, with more men believing equality had been achieved

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, left, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
Race, title and anguish: Meghan and Harry explain royal rift

Meghan said she struggled with concerns within the royal family about her son’s skin colour

Kiara Robillard is seen in an undated handout photo. When the pandemic began, Robillard had to rush back home to Alberta from California, where she had been living for five years, after she was struck by a truck that broke her spine in two places. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kiara Robillard, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘It kind of clicks:’ Text4Hope program helps with depression, anxiety during pandemic

Participants receive one text message every morning for three months

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

A decommissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is suspending all of the licences held by an oil and gas producer with more than 2,200 wells and 2,100 pipelines after it failed to bring its operations into compliance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta Energy Regulator suspends licences of oil and gas producer that owes $67M

The company is being asked to comply with past orders to clean up historic spills and contamination

Most Read