It’s likely that you heard the news- the news that Texas had their worst drought ever in recorded history during 2011. Surrounding states also experienced unprecedented drought conditions. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 38% of the contiguous U.S. was still classified as experiencing moderate to exceptional drought at the end of January 2012.
In Texas, the scramble is on to secure, if possible, a reliable water source. The news is all about water conservation technologies as well as water rights. It’s quickly shaping up to be a fight.
So what do we do now? Surprise, surprise – I’m going to say it’s a perfect opportunity to holistically manage our land. And in Texas, where we are mostly privately owned property with 92.6 million acres categorized as native rangeland, we can either gear up for the fight or we can join up for the challenge to manage our soils for increasing organic matter, to decrease bare ground, to increase forage species diversity all which improves rainfall capture, infiltration and water retention in the best “reservoir” imaginable – the earth.
All of this can be done free, and even improve the economic conditions of the landowners who participate. Landowners can team up with NRCS to monitor soil conditions and adjust management practices as needed to keep on course.
My friend, Dr. Richard Teague, Range Ecologist with Texas AgriLife Research in Vernon, Texas published in 2011 the results of a nine-year research project measuring the impacts on vegetation and soils from three different grazing management strategies as well as an ungrazed area. The research concluded that “multi-paddock grazing improves vegetation, soil health and animal production relative to continuous grazing in large-scale ranches.”
Relative to our current water crisis, Dr. Teague is quoted to say, “The fungal/bacterial ratio was highest with multi-paddock grazing as a result of the greater amounts of tall grass species indicating superior water-holding capacity and nutrient availability and retention.”
To make his research relevant to a real-life rancher, he used “an adaptive management approach the way a successful, conservation-oriented commercial rancher would do.”
In Holistic Management, we know just what he means – plan-monitor-control-replan.