Attributes of resilient pasture for achieving environmental outcomes at farm scale

Authors

  • Cecile de Klein AgResearch
  • Ross Monaghan AgResearch
  • Mitchell Donovan AgResearch
  • Aaron Wall University of Waikato
  • Louis Schipper University of Waikato
  • Ina Pinxterhuis DairyNZ

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.33584/rps.17.2021.3487

Keywords:

methane, nitrous oxide, nutrient losses, sediment, soil carbon

Abstract

Pasture resilience commonly refers to a pasture’s ability to withstand or rebound from pressures to maintain production and quality of sown species. We suggest that a broader definition of pasture resilience is needed that also includes environmental responses, thus ensuring that productivity and environmental outcomes are considered together. Key attributes of resilient pastures to minimise soil erosion and nutrient, greenhouse gas and soil carbon losses are summarised based on current understanding of environmental losses from pastoral systems. These attributes include maintaining consistent pasture cover, high energy and/or low nitrogen species and species diversity that provides complementary root morphology and/or growth seasonality; all are likely to have positive benefits for production and productivity. There is a potential tension, however, between productivity and methane emissions, as methane production increases with increased feed intake. Increasing pasture quality is therefore also an important consideration for pasture resilience as it can maintain animal productivity at lower levels of feed intake. From a farm systems perspective, the choice of pasture species should reflect the desired attributes for both productivity and environmental outcomes, and ensure that the sown species persist in the sward. Finally, we note that none of the environmental attributes/benefits are likely to deliver major farm-scale improvements on their own; progress will likely be incremental improvements upon implementing a range of attributes.

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Published

2021-10-29

Issue

Section

Resilient Pastures Symposium 2021