An evaluation of plant litter accumulation and its benefits in Manitoba pastures

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Neufeld, Simon James Regehr
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Three studies were undertaken from 2006 to 2007 to examine litter (dead plant material) in southwestern Manitoba pastures. First, the relationship between litter and soil microclimate was tested across five pasture sites. The amount of litter biomass was not strongly related to soil moisture, though near-surface soil temperatures were reduced when litter was present. Second, the effect of four simulated grazing strategies on the litter layer was measured in six pastures. It was found that after three years of simulated grazing, litter was present in largest quantities in the least-frequently grazed treatments. Finally, a field survey was conducted assessing the quantity of litter present in native pastures across Manitoba. Litter was quite variable and averaged 1902 kg/ha over two years. This research confirmed the value of litter as an indicator of sustainable pasture management, though it remains unclear whether litter is important to pastures from the perspective of soil microclimate.
plant residue, soil moisture, soil temperature, grazing management