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Grazing plants for mineral/biomass

 
Amedean Messan
pollinator
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Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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Can you guys share your wisdom on some dynamic accumulator species of plants.  My intent is to profile a variety of species so that I may produce a diversified grazing platform.  Ideally the species should be acclimated to woodland zone 7 types and survive clay soils. 

For building soil I want more then just fields of comfrey so my cattle/goats can graze and ferment some wonderful microorganisms.  I feel comfrey has been been a bit oversold for grazing biomass compared to lesser known grasses such as Eastern Gamagrass whose roots extend in excess of 15 feet underground and livestock love because for its sugar content.  This plant is a fantastic species to add to a profile but I was hoping to concentrate some knowledge from you guys in your experience and research.

Please post any helpful suggestions or species.  If you have a reference to any preferred cultivar for substrains it would be appreciated.  Videos and suppliers are another plus.  I will update my list below for convenience, thanks!


Plant List (updated)

  • [li]Big Bluestem[ (Andropogon Gerardii)[/li]
    [li]Comfrey (Symphytum Officinale)[/li]
    [li]Eastern Gamagrass (Tripsacum Dactyloides)[/li]
    [li]Lofa Festulolium[/li]
  •  
    Sam White
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    Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
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    forest garden trees woodworking
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    Nettles!?
     
    Amedean Messan
    pollinator
    Posts: 928
    Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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    The thought of running through fields of stinging nettles scares me, lol!
     
    Kirk Hutchison
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    Location: Los Angeles, CA
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    I think the main reason people use forbs instead of grasses as dynamic accumulators is that you don't need livestock to eat the forbs. Comfrey can just be chopped and left to rot, but the grass needs to be digested by an animal to break down quickly. I'm sure any prariegrass would do pretty well for your purpose.
     
    Amedean Messan
    pollinator
    Posts: 928
    Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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    I completely agree with what you said.  I plan on having a pasture for grazing cattle and goats so I do not have to worry so much about not having animals convert the plant biomass.
     
    Michael Radelut
    Posts: 203
    Location: Germany, 7b-ish
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    Amedean wrote:
    I completely agree with what you said.  I plan on having a pasture for grazing cattle and goats so I do not have to worry so much about not having animals convert the plant biomass.


    In that case, why not let the animals do the entire work for you ?
    You needn't plant anything; just start with rotational grazing and feed hay if there isn't enough feed in an area.
    The animals will inoculate the soil, the seeds already present will spring up, and you'll have a first stage of a grass succession.
    Eventually when the soil is good enough for Gama grass and the like, they'll come in - if they're not there somewhere already, the birds will bring the seeds.

    If you haven't been treated to my usual link yet, here it is:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6HGKSvjk5Q

    Greg Judy answers a question similar to yours during the Q&A at the end.
     
    Brenda Groth
    pollinator
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    Location: North Central Michigan
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    several of the ornamental grasses will grow huge and provide a lot of biomass..and many of them are self sterile so they won't invade your property..Calamagrostis Carl forester (sp) is one that gets HUGE and is not invasive..you can get a nice cutting of mulch off of it in spring or fall..

    Miscanthus is another one that isn't invasive for me and i get a lot of biomass from.

    I would avoid ribbon or garter grasses if you don't want invasive as they can be very invasive, but I still use them as they are so pretty.

    they are great to stop eroding slopes.

    milkweed, rhubarb, horseradish (invasive) are also good chop and drops..and even the leaves of some of the larger weeds are great for mulch, like thistles..

    make sure you aren't bringing in seeds of offensive plants though when you cut your biomass
     
    Jordan Lowery
    pollinator
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    Location: zone 7
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    im with hugel. start the process and let the plant species and animals themselves choose which get to grow. eventually the diversity in the pasture will be very high, and the feed nutritious. as well as the soil building process much faster.
     
    Amedean Messan
    pollinator
    Posts: 928
    Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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    Thank you Brenda for your info.  I did some research on "Karl Foerster" but it is described as resistant to grazing deer so I am not sure if it will be accepted food for cattle but maybe goats.  I will however add this to my species list because it has some great qualities.  Also Miscanthus or "Chinese Silvergrass" looks pretty impressive - especially since it thrives in poor soils.  I will have to do further research on this plant for potential applications.  


    To Hügel and Hubert:
    I understand what you guys are saying but in my case I will have to plant species.  Originally the area I am investing in was dense woodlands dozed into monoculture farmland so there are scarce plants other than some trees for mineral mining and biomass.  Because I may be purchasing old farmland, to restore the soil in reasonable time I will have to do some input labor because it is not in its original eco-status.  
     
    Amedean Messan
    pollinator
    Posts: 928
    Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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    I found a good link to some info on prairie grasses here at http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Portals/9/pdf/pub388.pdf
     
    John Polk
    master steward
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    I strongly suggest having a good combo of cool/warm weather forages on each field, as well as an overwinter crop.  The longer you can keep them grazing, the less hay you need to plant or buy.

    Hopefully, the overwinter crop will be their earliest forage, and then the cool weather crops will take over until the warm weather crops are ready.

    With enough species, each pasture feed your livestock most of the year.  You did say zone 7, which means winter does not need to be all about buying in hay.
     
    Amedean Messan
    pollinator
    Posts: 928
    Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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    Yeah, I am having trouble finding cold hardy forage.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
     
    John Polk
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    You might want to investigate Austrian Winter Peas or Hairy Vetch.
     
    Jordan Lowery
    pollinator
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    Location: zone 7
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    try adding many clovers to that list, alfalfa's, perennial bunch grasses, and then let nature take care of the rest.
     
    Paul Cereghino
    gardener
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    Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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    I'd agree with other comments to begin with the 'native' pasture and build from there.  In pasture you are looking for true, unassisted, naturalization.  A good approach might be reverse engineering, and reviewing old-field and abandoned pasture in a similar climate/aspect/soil/landscape position, learn those communities, both their composition and seasonal structure, and build from there.  The 'hyperaccumulation' phenomena is likely more common than not, and given the 1000 naturalized species in my ecoregion, our ag-based lists, largely derived from a few old sources, probably account for less than 5% of viable candidates.
     
    I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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