Changes in soil bulk density and soil nutrient profiles are a major concern of dryland grain producers considering grazing sheep on cereal stubble fields. Our objective was to compare burned, grazed, tilled, trampled and clipped wheat stubble fields on changes in soil bulk density and soil nutrient profiles. Treatments were evaluated in a series of three experiments using a randomized complete block design and four replications at each site. Contrast statements were used to make pre-planned comparisons among treatments. For Experiment 1, treatments were fall tilled, fall grazed, spring grazed, fall and spring combined (Fall/Spr) grazed, and an untreated control. Five mature ewes were confined with electric fence to a 111 m2 plot for 24 h for fall and spring grazed plots resulting in a stocking rate of 452 sheeps d/ha. For Fall/Spr, the stocking rate was 904 sheeps d/ha. For Experiment 2, treatments were fall grazed, fall burned, fall tilled, and an untreated control. In Experiment 3, treatments were fall trampling by sheep, spring trampling by sheep, fall and spring combined (Fall/Spr) trampling by sheep, hand clipping to a stubble height of 4.5 cm, and an untreated control. Trampling treatments were done at the same stocking rates as grazing treatments but sheep were muzzled to prevent intake. In Experiment 1, post-treatment organic matter tended to be greater (P = 0.09) in the mean of the grazed treatments than control plots. In all of the experiments, change in soil bulk density, and soil nutrient profiles did not consistently differ (P > 0.07) among treatments in any manner that would suggest a detrimental impact of grazing sheep on small grain residue. These results indicate a strong potential for grazing sheep on grain stubble without adversely impacting soil bulk density or nutrient profiles.
- Soil bulk density,
- Grazing sheep,
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