Response of Grazing Land Soil Health to Management Strategies: A Summary Review
Abstract, Sustainability, 2018
Grazing land ecosystem services including food provision and climate regulation are greatly influenced by soil health. This paper provides a condensed review of studies on the response of three important soil properties related to soil health to grazing land management: water infiltration, carbon (C) sequestration, and nitrogen use efficiency (NUE). Impacts of management strategies that are often used in grazing lands are discussed in this review including vegetation composition, grazing methods, and other factors such as fertilizer use and climatic conditions. In general, proper grazing management such as continuous moderate grazing and rotational/deferred-rotational grazing with low or moderate stocking rates tends to benefit all three soil properties. Water infiltration can usually be increased with full vegetation cover, increased soil C, and aggregate stability, or be decreased with greater soil bulk density. Adoption of highly productive plant species with faster turnover rates can promote soil C sequestration by increasing C input. However, excessive C removal from ecosystems due to overgrazing or improper soil fertilization management results in higher C loss, which can have detrimental effects on soil C sequestration. Proper stocking rate and a balanced manure/fertilizer management was found to be critical for enhancing NUE. Grazing land management sometimes simultaneously influence the three soil properties. Techniques that can increase soil C such as introduction of high productive plant species can often promote water infiltration and soil nitrogen (N). Some other practices such as adoption of N fertilizer may enhance C sequestration while being detrimental to NUE. An integrated management plan for a specific location or farm should be considered carefully to improve soil health as well as ecosystem production. This review provides farmers and policy makers the current state of general knowledge on how health-related soil processes are affected by grazing land management.
Keywords: carbon sequestration; water infiltration; nitrogen use efficiency; grazing land management