Despite over 40 years of thousands of people practicing Holistic Management® around the world on over 115 million acres and numerous scientific, peer-reviewed studies, there are still some people who want to detract from the results achieved by Holistic Management practitioners and ignore the science behind why it works. A disappointing article in the March 2017 Sierra Magazine focused mostly on making disparaging comments about Allan Savory and trotting out the same detractors and their articles about why Holistic Management is not backed by science.
Having read similar articles over the past 25 years, I was amazed that there was no attempt to report on the numerous scientific studies that have emerged in the past 5-10 years that actually do scientifically document the results of Holistic Management practitioners as well as all the studies that show how good livestock management can lead to soil health and how soil health is tied to carbon and methane sequestration.
Ironically, the very desired outcomes that the Sierra Club articulates in its Agriculture and Food Policy actually occur when agricultural producers use Holistic Management to improve land health and productivity. While there are a host of scientific papers, there are a few scientists that have focused much of their research to demonstrate the science behind how Holistic Planned Grazing (or Adaptive Multi-Paddock Grazing) does improve soil health that I would like to highlight in the hopes that more people will read their work.
One person is soil scientist Dr. Christine Jones from Australia with much of her research available on her website.
There are a number of different articles well worth reading on that site, as well as an article in which she discussed the research done by Dr. Mark Adams from the University of Sydney regarding the soils ability to sequester methane.
Another scientist is Dr. Richard Teague from Texas A & M Agrilife. He has a number of different studies that he has undertaken with numerous other scientists focusing on GHG mitigation, as well as an article on the role of ruminants in reducing agriculture’s carbon that was co-authored with Dr. Rattan Lal of Ohio State University.
He has also done specific research in Canada and Texas comparing the increased carbon sequestration on land where people are practicing Holistic Planned Grazing in comparison to their neighbors that are not. On average in the Texas study the holistically grazed land added 3 tons Carbon/ha/yr more than the heavy continuously grazed neighboring land. Other studies showed an increase of 2.29 metric tonnes/ha/yr.
Likewise, Dr. Teague has partnered with David C. Johnson, Steven Apfelbaum, Ry Thompson, Peter Byck in a study comparing ranches in the southeastern US that shows adaptive planned grazing can increase soil organic carbon by 20% and 46% more standing crop biomass, as well as providing a host of other benefits. But, even more telling, is that the average Animal Units (AU)/ha carried on the Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) sites was 1.88 vs. .844 on the conventionally grazed (CG) sites for a 123% increase in stocking rate.
Another study titled, “Vegetation, water infiltration, and soil carbon response to Adaptive Multi-Paddock and Conventional grazing in Southeastern USA ranches” led by Steven Apfelbaum showed that most AMP sites had >300% biomass compared to the conventionally grazed sites.
Another scientist is Dr. Keith Weber from Idaho State University who shows how holistic planned grazing improves soil moisture retention on semi-arid rangelands. This water retention leads to more plant growth which increases soil carbon and thus carbon sequestration:
The potential for holistic planned grazing to reduce GHG was also demonstrated in a research article by Michigan State University researchers titled: “Impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems”
In addition, there are other qualitative studies that show the improved profitability and sustainability of holistically managed operations and the efficacy of Holistic Management as a whole farm/ranch planning tool.
In particular, Dr. Deborah Stinner, Dr. Benjamin Stinner of (Ohio State University at Wooster), and Ed Marsolf wrote an article about Holistic Management and how biodiversity is an organizing principle in agroecosystem management.
Another qualitative study was done by Charley Orchard as he surveyed ranchers in the Northern Rockies and the results they had achieved.
To learn more about the results people have achieved with Holistic Management, view this 15-minute video or visit our Soil and Conservation page.
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