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    Pasture is an area of land that’s covered in a range of low-growing forage species. Grasses, legumes and herbs are common pasture plants, with farmers selecting particular cultivars to suit animal nutritional needs and local growing conditions.

    Pasture assessment – regular observation of pasture cover – is an important aspect of farm management. Monitoring what is growing and how much is growing helps with planning and decision making. Farmers have a number of tools to help them make assessments ranging from visual observations during a farm walk to more sophisticated electronic equipment including satellite imagery.

    Scientists working within the agricultural sector also make pasture assessments. These are often very precise and detailed observations used to investigate the effects a pasture species has on animal production or the environment.

    In this activity, students use the Common pasture plant species interactive as an introduction to pasture plants. Students then move outdoors to use a quadrat to observe what is growing in a nearby pasture or a grassy field within the school grounds.

    • construct and use a quadrat to observe plant species within a pasture or field
    • use online resources to identify plant species observed
    • discuss why it is important to use a guide to identify the species.

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    Consider combining this activity with Measuring pasture mass to monitor both what is growing and the amount of dry matter the plants produce.

    Nature of science

    Observation is a skill that builds with practice and knowledge. Farmers and those who manage pasture may use visual observation to assess pasture make-up and seasonal growth. This type of observation becomes more accurate with the use of measurement tools, such as a rising plate meter, to validate observations.

    Related content

    The article Observation and science is an introduction to the fundamental capability of using observation to gather data. The article lists activities to help students develop their observational skills.

    Scientists use quadrats to observe plantain levels in pastures.

    Useful link

    Use Massey University’s New Zealand weeds database to identify some of the common weed species that grow in lawns, gardens and pastures.

    Acknowledgement

    This resource has been produced with the support of DairyNZ.

      Published 15 April 2021 Referencing Hub articles