Weedy dry land pasture management ... #737612 - Ask Extension

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Weedy dry land pasture management ... #737612

Asked January 31, 2021, 6:56 PM EST

I read the article and saw the charts, diagrams and all, but not one mention of soil conditions was offered.  I would ask or I would question is the soil hard, soft, sandy or loam,  is the soil pH high or low?  Is there a dominant mineral issue like alkali, iron, aluminum, or is it low in calcium, Phosphorous, Potassium.  Is the soil carbon low, is microbe activity present . Does the soil drain or does it puddle after it rains?   All of these physical issues determine a soils ability to grow quality forages ...

Delta County Colorado

Expert Response

Hello, 

I am not sure what article you are referring to, or what your question is. Could you explain a bit more?
Kara Harders Replied February 01, 2021, 12:03 PM EST
I was looking at a  reprt of weedy pasture reclamation and how landowners with livestock can improve their forages.  Long story short, the entire CSU approach was try this herbicide or that herbicide and plant this type of Dry Land deed mix.   There was nothing about soil tests, mineral imbalances, soil hardness or compaction, feed values ...  Nothing but general plant this or that seed and dump more pesticides on marginal soils and pray, pray for a miracle to miraculously grow quality grazing. 
Perhaps you could explain something about domanent minerals and their effect on plant populations, feed values or lack of, or how weeds thrive in poverty soils and feed group plants don't fare so well.  I'm just saying give people some solutions that will help or just call me at 970 984 2467 about Soil Amendments.
Yhank you John B.

The Question Asker Replied February 02, 2021, 5:04 PM EST
Hello,

Perhaps it does exist, but a document that would cover all of the topics you are after would need to be of book length, perhaps a set of books. A person able to answer all of these things accurately from memory might have a masters or PhD in agronomy and soil science , so years and years of classroom instruction, especially since what is a decent OM content or mineral content in one soil and situation is pitiful in another. Since extension tries to deliver information in a way that is easy to use for a landowner/manager the documents often cover the major issues and then if you want to learn more about specific components you would need to find another article on that topic.
For explanations of ranges of soil micro and macro nutrients the CSU soils lab has a good fact sheet: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/agriculture/soil-test-explanation-0-502/ 
When it comes to pasture or rangeland care, the amount of forage and the types of forage plants that can grow is often most limited by the type of soil (amendments can help but are generally not a long term solution) and the amount of rainfall (unless irrigation is available). So the praying is that the rain comes at a time the seeds can germinate and establish. There is no silver bullet plan that can 100% of the time bring a pasture back into production.
Also, the vast majority of land in Colorado is currently or has been overgrazed, many areas of Colorado cannot support even one animal unit on less than 40 acres, every time the ground is overused  (grazing, trampling) it gets worse.  Weeds are usually the first issue to address which is likely why the article you were looking at focused on weed control, once weeds are controlled covering the ground with a good plant is the next step before weeds get a chance to return.  
If you are looking for Organic solutions to weeds you will need to specifically look for organic documents , some will include both methodologies but most are aimed at conventional management options, unless they are titled for organics. 
You may also find the answers you are looking for in specific relation to your property by contacting your local NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Services) office. They can help you determine the potential and abilities of the soil you are working with and what can be reasonably done to improve it.
Kara Harders Replied February 03, 2021, 10:42 AM EST
My family came to Colorado Territory in 1868 to ranch the high mountain pastures, I grew up in the 1950s long before Pesticides were the Rule if Thumb.   Sure weeds were a common problem, but only the toxic weeds were something to fear.  Old timers on the land knew that soils high in iron suppressed soil phosphate and phosphate release was what gave plants and non toxic Canada Thistle, Burdock, Cheatgrass, Orange Hawkweed and other plants flavors, energy and food value.  These plants are weeds  because they are bitter and bland because o existing soil limitations. They could become diverse dynamic grazing if a cheap long term Soil Amendment blend was applied.
Experience and passed down knowledge is by far a better learning tool than a one sided classroom approach.  When I was growing up weed issues were minimum, irrigation ditches had minnows, frogs, crayfish.  Birds were abundant, Hawks in the skys and roadkill rabbits indicated a healthy ecosystem.  Those animals disappeared when Monsanto and Ortho entered the picture.
The Question Asker Replied February 03, 2021, 12:10 PM EST

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