It is good to see cocksfoot grass (Dactylis glomerata) popping up in our current grazing pasture. This is a perennial grass that forms dense tussocks growing to 15-140cm tall, with leaves 20-50cm long and up to 1.5cm broad, and distinctive tufted triangular flowerheads, containing 2-5 flowers. The stems have a flattened base, which distinguishes them from many other grasses.
Obviously our animals enjoy these big tussocks, but it's what it does underground that is far more important...
Cocksfoot, also known as orchard grass, is a pioneer grass that is one of the first pasture species to colonise misused/compacted pasture. That's because cocksfoot has the deepest roots of any grass. It also has the strongest so it can penetrate through tough soil pans* thus leading the way for other species' roots to inhabit those magical subsoils where many of the minerals and trace elements reside.
All the other plant species can then draw up those minerals to the surface in their foliage either for the animals to eat (so keeping our flock healthy) or to create mineral rich organic matter to feed our topsoils.
Cocksfoot is a sign of our pasture soils beginning to heal themselves.
*Note: A soil pan is a hard compacted layer in the soil that's been created by years of either ploughing and/or overstocking with animals. The pan stops the pasture plant roots from travelling deep into the subsoil so limits the growth and nutritional value of plants above in the pasture.
Rebecca Hosking and Tim Green made the film Farm For the Future for the BBC exploring peak oil, climate change and permaculture.
They now run Village Farm, featured in Permaculture 83. In 'Farming With Nature', by Maddy Harland she describes how Village Farm is being transformed from a grazed out, ploughed out landcsape into a biodiverse farm with the help of holistic grazing, hedgerow regeneration, tree planting and other regenerative techniques.
SUBSCRIBE to print or digital versions and read 82 back issues totally FREE online - a true treasure trove of permaculture information since 1992!