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Sustainable production from the rough fescue prairie
Native prairie communities have evolved to produce relatively low but sustained
production. Demand for greater production has resulted in overgrazing and, consequently,
lower and more unstable annual yields and increased risk of soil erosion. Because
the Rough Fescue Prairie is best suited for grazing, studies were made to determine its
carrying capacity and assess the efects of overgrazing. Overgrazing resulted in an increase
in plant species that were shallow-rooted and less productive, but more resistant
to grazing. This was associated with higher soil temperatures and reduced infiltration.
Consequently, the soil was transformed to one characteristic of a drier microclimate. Soil
color changedfrom black to dark brown as stocking rate increasedffom light to very heavy.
Grazing caused a redistribution of nitrogen in the soil by concentrating a greater proportion
in a shallower Ah horizon. Productivity deteriorated rapidly with overgrazing, but
more than 20 years of drastically reduced stocking rates are required to enable recovev.
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