Agronomy •  2022-05-12

A sustainable solution to preserving Canada’s grasslands

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animated photo of cows in pasture

Prairie grasslands are one of the most agriculturally useful habitats on earth – and the least protected. Disappearing at an alarming rate, Canada’s grasslands are one of “the world’s most endangered ecosystems1,” according to Nature Conservancy Canada.

Canada’s Grasslands

Temperate grassland ecosystems in Canada are vital to the survival of not only the wildlife that inhabit them, but the humans who surround and utilize them. Grass is the most abundant plant species. Through its vegetation grown above ground and root systems below, grass creates a thriving ecological habitat teeming with life, filtering impurities from the air and water.

Grasslands protect soil from disease, wind erosion, flash flooding and extreme temperature changes. They provide nutritious forage for animals like cattle, bison, elk and other grazers, which then turn that forage into natural fertilizer, continuing the all-important, carbon-capturing plant cycle.

It’s estimated that the root systems of different grass species can stretch between two and three meters below the surface; but, as their roots stretch deep into the ground, Canada’s grassland ecosystems are in deep trouble.

The Danger Ahead

Grasslands act as one of the world’s most stable carbon sinks and, if managed efficiently via sustainable grazing, could have an intensely positive effect on climate change. Yet, five million acres of Canada’s grasslands were surrendered when 26,000 ranch families left the ranching industry during the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) crisis in 20032. Further still, 74 per cent3, due to agricultural conversion and urban sprawl.

This is nothing new to farmers and ranchers, who are well aware of the unending problem facing world agriculture today: how to feed more people using less land and less resources.

However, there is a proven solution to the demise of grassland ecosystems in Canada and across the globe. And it involves something very simple that’s been happening for hundreds of years: sustainable grazing.

How Sustainable Grazing Can Help

Grass thrives when there is periodic removal of old growth, which is exactly what grazing cattle accomplishes. If the grass is too long when it dies before winter, new springtime growth struggles to push through the old plant matter. Weeds, brush and trees can also take over, choking out the grass. But when cattle graze the grass, regrowth easily occurs. Steadily moving cattle from one block of grasslands to another allows the grazed grass to rest and regenerate. Plus, their hooves naturally till the soil, and their manure provides a natural, nutrient-dense fertilizer.

Tools for Maximizing Sustainable Grazing

Using an integrated pasture management strategy that includes grazing rotations, herbicide applications, fertility analysis, mechanical brush management and regular pasture health assessments can help ranchers ensure existing temperate grasslands continue to regenerate and thrive. To reclaim the wellbeing of the Prairies and protect this precious land for future generations, look to Range & Pasture Solutions from Corteva Agriscience™.

Our Range & Pasture portfolio provides producers with sustainable solutions to control invasive weeds, brush and trees in permanent grass pasture and grazed rangeland, allowing for increased grass production and sustainable grazing resource for the future.

Effective. Reliable. Sustainable Pasture Management Solutions.

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