At this year’s Cattlemen’s Conference, Blueprint for the Future, Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Intern, Maci Carter, had a chance to visit with Hugh Aljoe of the Noble Research Institute about land stewardship for improved soil health.
Regenerative ranching, Aljoe said, is land stewardship for improving soil health in grazing animal production with lasting producer profitability. Aljoe said regenerative ranching is simply trying to mimic nature and incorporate the sciences available today to improve the quality of soils and their health over time.
“Making it a reality, really begins with grazing management,” said Aljoe. “We need to be stocked lightly enough, or conservatively enough so that whenever we have those rotations, as we’re moving these cattle from pasture to pasture, every pasture is fully recovered. We want to maintain as much leaf area, so the plants continue to photosynthesize and maintain their root capacity. So, bring up moisture and nutrients so they can regrow rapidly. We want to make sure that we’re using these different pastures in different seasons of the year and don’t get in the same routine time and time again.”
Aljoe said he believes in starting with what you have to make these changes. He also added it is beneficial to start small and make little changes to provide the rest needed for your soil to recover and regrow using its own capabilities.
“One of the best ways to actually measure soil health is to run a Haney test.,” Aljoe said. “If you hadn’t ever done it before, at least get a benchmark to see what your organic matter is. But if you want to really look at it yourself and have these early experiences of success, what you do is you begin to look to make sure that your ground stays covered. If you look down between the grass plants, do you have plant residual covering the soil to where you see no soil at all? That is what we ought to be looking for.”
Aljoe said covering the soil is an important first step to seeing a difference. Evaluating it is as simple as running a nutrients test, he added, or simply taking a shovel and looking a few inches into your soil.
Aljoe also emphasized the importance of evaluating your soil firsthand with a good shovel today.
“The beef industry takes kind of a hard rap when we start looking at greenhouse gases,” Aljoe said. “The greater amount of organic matter we can put back into the soil, the more carbon that we can sequester over time, which helps be part of the solution. The other economic industries across the country can’t do that. It’s agriculture that has the opportunity.”
While the beef industry gets a bad rap for carbon emissions, Aljoe said the truth is that growing America and other industries are the ones feeding the greenhouse emissions. Our lifestyles have created activities that have inflamed this problem, but agriculture has the opportunity to be a part of the solution.
“Just start with what you have and can cost cost-effectively try,” said Aljoe.
Aljoe’s biggest advice for hesitant ranchers looking to make the change was to start small and incorporate these practices for the first time on land that they know will have a better chance of being successful to offset any hiccups in the road and put it somewhere they can see so they are reminded of the change that is needed.