The Noble Research Institute's forage discipline recently hosted a weeklong grazing school. Participants came from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Arkansas. Two of our primary areas of discussion were plant identification and land resource management.
Plant identification is very important in understanding the health of the land resource and the direction it is headed. We typically use the term "succession" to imply the direction of health of the land resource, whether it is improving or regressing. Succession is simply a change or shift in the plant community. It is influenced by some factors beyond our control, such as climate, soils and topography.
However, there are a number of tools we can use to influence succession, such as grazing, rest, fire, fence, reseeding, water and mineral placement, machinery, chemicals, etc. Knowing the direction of succession is an important step in managing your land resource, and plant identification is a key component to this process.
The plant community tells us a lot about the range, its condition and the direction it's going. If we have more desirable plants than we did a few years ago, then we are most likely moving in the right direction. If not, then something is wrong, and we need to evaluate our management practices to see what changes are necessary to get back on track.
Managing land resources requires a keen awareness of the ecosystem, as well as practical knowledge of the tools available to manipulate these resources.
There are a few very useful Web sites available to assist you with plant identification:
If you are interested in purchasing some easy-to use-books, I would recommend adding the following to your library: