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In this graph, we compare 52 tilled and untilled fields with grazing animals, with 77 tilled and untilled fields without grazing animals. Our data shows that fields with animals had higher median scores for several soil health indices (brown bars) than fields without animals (blue bars). Grazing days (number of days animals were in the field) ranged from 3-365 days, with a median number of grazing days of 44.
While overgrazing can cause soil compaction, erosion and poor soil health, well-managed grazing can have the opposite effect. Animal excrement recycles plant nutrients, enriching the soil and its microbiome. Well-managed grazing animals have been shown to provide other ecosystem services such as soil stabilization and formation, and increased water infiltration and carbon sequestration.
Elizabeth Black is the producer of the Citizen Science Soil Health Project