Most pasture improvement begins with the application of lime. We moved here in August of last year and soon after had a soil test done, which of course showed our pastures would benefit from an application of lime. The previous owners had kept them clipped and used one pasture for hay. No animals had been grazing on it for I don’t know how long. The hay field consisted mostly of Johnson grass and was let go to over 6 feet tall before it was cut last fall (we went with an existing arrangement with neighbors who cut and baled the hay). It was not quality hay by any means. The remainder of the pastures had “sage grass,” a common name for broomsedge, and a sign of poor soil fertility. Livestock will eat the young green growth, but as it matures it becomes unpalatable to pretty much anything. It wasn’t just spotty either, the whole field looked like amber waves of grain late last summer. So we began research on how to get rid of the stuff. Apparently it’s not easy once established, but one of the first steps is to restore the pH balance to the soil, thus the application of lime.
Lime ideally should be spread in the fall, but as we were busy getting our old house ready to put on the market and in the midst of our move here it didn’t happen. It got done a couple weeks ago. Better late than never. It takes about 6 months for it to become active in the soil. Lime is a relatively inexpensive way to really help your pastures. Here are a few of the benefits:
- It corrects soil acidity, raising pH.
- It increases soil microbial activity, which speeds decay of organic matter and releases plant nutrients that may be tied up in roots of the previous crop.
- It supplies calcium or magnesium.
- It increases availability of residual and applied phosphorus.
- It increases fixation of nitrogen by soil and plant organisms.
- It improves the physical properties of soil.
- It reduces activity of inorganic substances in the soil, thereby preventing toxicity from aluminum and manganese.
Rotational grazing should also help, and we’re getting the infrastructure in place to begin doing that ASAP. But I think it will take awhile to see great improvement.