In North America, prairie grass used to be everywhere.
It covered hundreds of millions of acres in the United States and Canada, serving as grazing land for the vast herds of bison that roamed the continent just a few hundred years ago.
Today, just a fraction of it remains. It sits at a critical intersection of agribusiness and the environment — cattle can graze it much like the bison did, keeping the grassland healthy, which in turn pulls carbon from the atmosphere. In fact, grazing is often the most productive use of the land.
Nurturing those grasslands, and helping ranchers preserve them, is one of the most potent steps we can take to fight climate change and support producer livelihoods.
“Prairies and grazing lands have incredible potential,” said Courtney Hall, senior sustainability manager and leader of BeefUp Sustainability, one of Cargill’s comprehensive greenhouse gas reduction initiatives in North America. “This is one of our biggest opportunities to make a difference.”
What makes prairies so important?
First, there’s grass itself. It serves as a habitat for diverse wildlife, helps retain and filter groundwater, and draws carbon deep into the soil with roots that can stretch 12 feet (4 meters) underground.
Healthy, well managed grasslands pull more carbon down every year. We still have a lot to learn, but research suggests an acre of grassland in rotational or an adaptive multi-paddock system can absorb more carbon than grasslands that are not managed in this way.
Then there’s the natural fit with livestock — especially beef cattle — who can graze on the land. It’s a productive use of land that often isn’t suitable for other types of farming. The cattle can even keep the prairie healthy by mimicking the patterns of the bison.
Published on 5/7/2021 (2 years 214 days ago)