Posted 14 July 2011, by Jake Taylor, Local News 8 (MPG of Idaho, Inc.), localnews8.com
MCCAMMON, Idaho — An Idaho State University research team has completed a project that could drastically change how ranchers use their land. ISU’s geographic information systems focuses specifically on research that will have a real impact on local agriculture.”How can I use this to help me run my ranch better?” GIS Director Keith Weber said.The GIS just published a four-year study funded with a $1.5 million NASA grant. Researchers said it could change how ranchers have done their job for years.”We were able to do a study that could potentially improve grazing practices and improve rangeland health around eastern Idaho,” GIS research associate Kindra Serr said.The research shows that if cattle graze like a huge roaming herd of buffalo, where a lot of animals go into a relatively small area, devour almost everything there and then move on, it could benefit the land.It may be counter-intuitive, but researchers said it works.”The idea is that you put lots of animals in a small space, which you would think would actually destroy the land, when in reality it actually ends up improving the land,” Serr said.GIS set up test pastures at the university’s O’neal Ecological Preserve near McCammon.The pastures that used intense short period grazing had 10 percent more water in the soil than traditionally grazed pastures.Weber said that extra 10 percent makes a big difference.”That additional soil moisture is going to allow that pasture to grow more grass. That’s more forage for wildlife, more forage for the livestock, and ultimately for the rancher that is more beef,” Weber said.