By Rory Lewandowski, Extension Educator, Athens County, Buckeye Hills EERA
I’ve gotten some questions recently about pasture management during dry fall conditions. Specifically, how will future pasture production be affected by grazing off pasture leaf area now, in the fall? The short answer to that question is that pasture production will be harmed by grazing off leaf area at this time. Now, let’s examine the reasons behind the answer and some management options.
Fall is the time when the perennial plant prepares for winter. As a perennial plant, the root system remains alive over the winter and depends upon stored carbohydrate reserves to survive and to regenerate new growth the following spring. Manufacture of those carbohydrate reserves depends upon photosynthesis. Photosynthesis depends upon leaves capturing sunlight. More leaf area equals more sunlight captured, higher photosynthetic rates and higher levels of carbohydrates produced for winter storage. As we go farther into the fall, grass growth rate slows down considerably, but photosynthesis can still occur at productive rates, provided there is adequate leaf area.