Art. # 218
MAINTAINING AND REHABILITATING GRASSLAND
Text by Stefan Rust
Photos by Birgit Leicher, Argo and Stefan Rust
(In terms of the Geneva Convention the copyright of these texts belongs to Stefan Rust)
Father Sky gives light, rain and air to mother Earth and she in return gives birth to plants, animals and humans. We humans are part of this family called Nature, the sky being our father, the earth our mother and the plants and animals our brothers and sisters. For many years family Nature lived a peaceful and quiet life but recently the human children became disobedient and rebellious against their family. Humans pollute Father Sky and Mother Earth and poison and kill their siblings, the plants and animals.
Many kind of animals, such as this White rhino, assist in
maintaining or rehabilitating grassland.
In an attempt to restore family Nature, BirdsConTour founded the Environmental Management project.
Many farmers depend on livestock and game, so grass as food is inescapable. In livestock country the grass indicates the health of the land. In these areas there are very few places where grass cannot grow, but nowadays many places where it doesn’t grow anymore. Where good grass grows, the animals will be in a good productive condition.
But inappropriate land management leads to trouble on many farms, poisonous plants increase, grass disappears, bare soil originates, wind and water erosion increases, dense bush grows and animals move away and die.
Disappearance of grass is not because of animals or too many animals. Since the beginning of time plants and animals coexisted and belong together. So blaming the animals for the absence of good grass is wrong. Grass (plants), as any other living organism, needs among other things movement to stay healthy. But because of its roots a grass plant can’t move from A to B to keep fit, it needs another way of movement, so it grows and grows again several times. But therefore grasses depend on animals. They bite off part of the grass that is visible above the ground, to then being able to move, to grow again. Only grass that is eaten by animals can live healthy and be productive.
By reducing or removing animals from land where we want grass to grow is not the answer because grass that does not get stimulated to grow through being grazed or gets stimulated too seldom, initially turns yellow and eventually dies because of lack of movement and lack of sunlight. Old stems and leafs spend shadow so that young leafs can’t grow from the bottom.
Besides sunlight and being grazed, grass needs water and food to live. This they get by their roots out of a healthy soil. Soil to be or to become healthy needs large herds of animals as it used to be under natural circumstances. The feet open the ground for the seed to be planted, water to soak in and the feet break down old plant material serving as ground cover and protection. The manure and urine of a herd of healthy animals gives back part of the digested grass to the soil and serves as good fertilizer. In a healthy ecosystem the energy flow, water cycle and mineral cycle is fully functional and good grass can grow to avoid bare soil to develop, causing desert-like circumstances or dense bush growth, the biggest competitor of bush being an according growth of grass that suppresses bush germination.
With keeping animals it is of utmost importance to avoid “overgrazing” and “over-resting” of grass plants. Both factors are equally harmful for grass growth and for the topsoil, eventually causing the loss of both.
This is where the crucial time factor comes in. Animals have to move or be moved around enough to give eaten and trampled grass the necessary time they need to grow again and reproduce. This recovery time often was and still is the neglected factor resulting in destroyed grassland. Once again it needs to be emphasized that not animals or too many animals are to be blamed but inappropriate management by people.
These test sections managed by Mr. Argo Rust prove that grasses can return within a relative short period of time with appropriate livestock practices applied, in this case with cattle. Each picture set shows the same test section before (top) and after (bottom). The dates are 26.6.’10 (top) and 8.8.’11 (bottom) on the left set, 3.10.’10 (top) and 5.4.’11 (bottom) on the middle set and 26.6.’10 (top) and 4.10.’11 (bottom) on the right set.