Soils for Ranchers

Tips to build your Rangeland, Pasture and Forest Soil

On this page...  

What's the difference (Pastures? Rangelands? Forests?)? 

Common Rangeland and Pasture Soil Problems

 

healthy soils

 

Opportunities to improve my soil

Practices to improve your soil

Rangelands

  • Sequestering Carbon
  • Graze for Soil Health
    • Grazing systems
    • Stocking rates
  • Compost (Fertilize)
  • Seeding
  • Preserve, rehabilitate and diversify habitat
  • Water Developments
  • Build roads (to limit point erosion)

Pastures

  • Sequestering Carbon
  • Compost (Fertilize)
  • Graze
  • Seed
  • Irrigate
  • Riparian areas
  • Build roads (to limit point erosion)

 

Pastures? Rangelands? Forests? What's the main differences?

rangeland

Rangeland

is land with natural vegetation predominantly grasses, grass-like plants, forbs or shrubs that may be grazed by domestic livestock.

Rangeland can be open grasslands or in forested areas.

Pastures

Pastures

are grazing land with seeded plants for improved forage. Management of pastures will include grazing management, cultivation, seeding, fertilization, irrigation and pest management. It may also include mowing and reseeding.  

 



Common Rangeland and Pasture Soil problems 

Leads Sheila Barry and Theresa Becchetti

Common rangeland and pasture soil problems

Common rangeland and pasture soil problems 

Rangelands face problems of 1) maintaining soils for productivity, 2) management of noxious weeds (though not really soil related), 3) appropriate soil management to meet ecosystem goals (e.g., vernal pool or habitat maintenance), and 4) point erosion around roads.

Pastures have challenges around 1) irrigation and 2) fertilization (N and sometimes P if growing legumes) to maintain grass growth for productivity.

There is increasing concern the the increasing lose of ground cover due to fires is leading to increases in 1) water erosion and 2) mudslides. (We are seeking confirmation of this.)

You can check your soil type at Soil web (T O’Geen) to get a general sense of soils in your area.

Soil web is a remarkable map resource showing soil types throughout California with detailed information on soil characteristics and potential uses.

 

Opportunities to Improve Rangeland and Pasture soil

Opportunities to Improve Rangeland and Pasture soil

Opportunities

Sequester C as a marketing opportunity (i.e., Potentially gain a cost premium by marketing as "Products come from lands actively seeking to help preserve our planet" or similar.)

Low maintenance roads to limit site erosion.

Reduce erosion by 1) Protecting your soil surface and 2) Avoiding water channeling and concentrating

Practices to enhance soil quality on rangelands and pastures

Rangelands

  • Sequestering Carbon
  • Graze for Soil Health
    • Grazing systems
    • Stocking rates
  • Compost (Fertilize)
  • Seeding
  • Preserve, rehabilitate and diversify habitat
  • Water Developments
  • Build roads (to limit point erosion)

Pastures

  • Sequestering Carbon
  • Compost (Fertilize)
  • Graze
  • Seed
  • Irrigate
  • Build roads (to limit point erosion)

Practices to enhance soil quality on Rangelands and Pastures

 

Building Rangeland Soil health

Rangelands cover approximately 60% of California or 57 million acres. California’s low elevation rangelands are typically dominated by non-native annual plants that are adapted to the Mediterranean climate.

Despite the dominance of non-native plants, California’s annual rangelands provide habitat for a large diversity of native plants and annuals including as many as 200 federally listed species.

Rangeland management typically involves grazing management, water development, pest management, and road maintenance.

Building Rangeland soil health

soil rangeland

Sequestering C

Graze for Soil Health

Grazing - why, what, when, how

Yes, grazing is key to a healthy soil and rangeland health. Hundreds of years ago, this balance was kept through buffalo, deer and elk and now often by cattle.

Recommended Grazing practices:  Understand grazing Fact Sheet (Barry, Larson, Ford and Bush)

Stocking rates: Rangeland productivity Fact Sheet (Becchetti)

Alfalfa - Find information on alfala management practices (Agronomy RIC)

Compost (Fertilize)

The use of regular inorganic fertilizer is rarely economic on rangelands.

Seeding (rangeland)

Preserve, rehabilitate and diversify Habitat

Water

Cows need water too Fact sheet (Barry, Larson, Bush)

Riparian areas

Building Roads

  • How do I establish roads for minimal cost while limiting erosion? Fact Sheet 
  • Why should I care if I lose a bit of soil? Erosion is important for two main reasons

    1. The finer richer fraction of the soil is what you typically lose, and
    2. Soil forms incredibly slowly - a single inch of topsoil takes from 200 to 1,000 years to form from the raw material of the subsoil. (You can read more on soil formation from Ventura county)

 

Building Pasture soil health

Building Pasture soil health

soil pasture cows

Pastures - managed forage for livestock

Sequestering C

Irrigation

Fertilization

Grazing

Seeding (pastures)

  • what plant, when, how, how much 

Riparian areas

Roads

 

 

Soil rehabilitation (post mining/ disruption)

Protect the soil surface and control (channel) runoff

 

For more on Rangelands

UC Rangelands (web)

California Institute for Water Resources (web)

Rangeland Watershed Laboratory (web)

Clear Lake Aquatic Website (web)