In cooperation with UC Davis, TomKat Ranch is exploring the potential benefits and cost savings of re-planting native grasses in concentrated strips instead of across an entire field. Our hope is that the planted native grasses will once again be able to thrive in the restored soil and then will begin to re-colonize the entire field. If successful, this strategy of strip seeding may make it far cheaper for ranchers throughout California to re-establish drought-resistant and deep-rooted native grasses that not only help keep their livestock well-fed, but also save water, restore native habitat, and even help capture atmospheric carbon to grow healthy soils. The pilot has a period of three years to accomplish the goal starting in March 2016.
One of the more interesting components of this pilot is the decision not to use herbicides for preparing the field for planting in order to support soil and water health on the ranch. The planting strips will instead be cleared through intense cattle and horse grazing. A follow up treatment of using hand torches will eliminate competing weeds seeds that could germinate in the strips. After seeding in fall-winter 2017-18, seeded strips will not be grazed for one season so that the grass plants can re-seed.
We will keep you posted on how this project develops.