NPR reports that across the globe, grasslands are turning into desserts. Some of the world’s most fertile soil, along with plains areas that feed the grazing livestock needed to support the growing world population, is in peril.
Experts say that human error may be at fault. William Burnidge, a Nature Conservancy ecologist in charge of the Colorado grassland program, suggests there is a way to manage herds in order to prevent further destruction of grasslands.
The common misconception is that more cattle grazing means less grass, but Burnidge says that if farmers learn how to keep cattle moving while grazing, the plants will begin to respond with stimulated growth.
This new method of grazing, called holistic management, or planned grazing, is already being put to the test on a Colorado ranch owned by the Nature Conservancy. An alternative to the standard rotational grazing, this experimental program mimics the way large herds of grazing animals move across plains in the wild.
Ranchers are required to keep a detailed chart that plans out from the start of the season how and when to move their livestock across their pastures.
Researchers can only guess at how wild cattle would have moved across a fenceless plain, but experts appear hopeful that the answer lies in approximation.