Soils can be enriched with nutrients to grow strong, healthy grass for livestock to consume. Many of the nutrients transfer to your plate when you eat meat, or the fruits, vegetables and grains harvested.
In recent years, the agriculture community has emphasized the importance of testing soil composition, then improving the chemistry. Farmers may do this by adding nutrients to the soil or to the solution that waters the field.
“Not only can you grow more food, but it’ll be healthier. And in turn, you might not have to add supplements to your cattle’s food,” Bledsoe, a plant physiologist, said. “By investing a little bit more in your soil, you can get a better benefit.”
The effects of phosphorus
Grass tetany, a fatal disorder in cattle, is related to low magnesium in a cow’s diet.
In previous work, Bledsoe and colleagues found soil must have adequate phosphorus levels for magnesium to reach the leaves of tall fescue.
“The Ozarks has acidic soils, which means our phosphorus levels are low,” she explained. “Grass tetany is more of an issue in our tall fescue pastures than in many other places.”
In her role, Bledsoe mentors students in agronomy and horticulture. Her interest in soil health and nutrition serves as a springboard for a broad range of students to jump into research, she noted.
Her projects dig in many different directions – garlic, microgreens and fescue to name a few. At the root of each, she sees a commonality.
“We’re trying to help local producers have healthier soils and healthier forage production, so they can have fewer issues with their cattle,” Bledsoe said.