National Drought Mitigation Center

Pasture Diversity and Drought

Why Do Diverse Pastures Hold Up Better During Drought?

Plant Diversity = More Grazing Opportunities

Standing herbage of various plant species over time
Seasonal distribution of current-year herbage by species on sandy range sites in good to excellent range condition with average precipitation (Nosal 1983)

Nutritive value of plants is high during periods of rapid growth, primarily occurring during spring and early summer.

Consequently, livestock performance is highest when grasses are lush and leafy. Seasonal changes in the botanical composition of livestock diets on rangeland correspond to seasonal patterns of plant growth. Learn how to determine when cool- and warm-season grasses are elongating, or in rapid growth windows.

Since rangeland in good to excellent condition has many plant species, the time when high quality forage is available is extended, with overlapping periods of rapid growth for different plant species.

Plant Diversity = More Opportunities for Forage Production During Drought

Plant species diversity increases the likelihood of some herbage being produced when precipitation is unevenly distributed during the growing season in dry years.

The diversity of perennial grasses tends to decrease as range condition declines, reducing the number of opportunities for forage production under the limited and irregular precipitation patterns characteristic of drought.