Spongy soils are those that are able to retain water, including during floods and drought. What do spongy soils have to do with meat? It all begins on the pasture. Well managed perennial grazing systems keep plants and root systems intact continuously. Intact root systems help soils become more spongy, holding topsoil in place and preventing runoff.
Most of the plant species that grow here in North Carolina on our farmers’ pastures have adapted over the course of 1,000s of years to short bursts of grazing by ruminant animals. (Think buffalo or bison on the open range years ago). A plant will respond to grazing by investing its energy in developing a deeper root system. Deeper and more robust root systems change the soil structure, making it more porous. Deeper more complex root systems promote water retention, nutrient availability, and biological activity. And all of that helps sequester carbon and fight climate change.
Living here in North Carolina, we’re all too familiar with the devastating impacts of flooding. It’s time to start understanding the importance of spongy soils and the mitigating role of well managed perennial grazing systems. And its time to promote policies that incentivize these practices.