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Joy Livingwell
Low-production arid grassland surrounding Teels Marsh, Nevada, U.S.A., severely damaged by decades of rest. Now producing just 0-50 lbs. of grass per acre per year (0-56 kg/ha), it once produced up to 1,800 lbs./acre (2000 kg/ha) on 3-5" (75-130 mm) rainfall, and could again. Article

Of course with good management it's possible to improve all of this, but the point is that country that is inherently very low in productivity will never turn into high-production country. Country that conventionally can support one animal unit per 60 acres (24 ha) will never improve to 10 or 20 acre (4-8 ha) country, though it might improve to 35-40 acre (14-16 ha) country.

With severely damaged land, big productivity jumps are possible. That's because damaged land doesn't produce anywhere near its potential. Damaged mineral and water cycles limit plant growth and nutrition, sunlight gets wasted on bare ground rather than fueling vegetation growth, while decreased biodiversity leads to pest outbreaks and boom-and-bust population swings. In these situations, good management can often make an enormous difference in just a few years.

-- Jim Howell

Jim Howell and his wife Daniela ranch outside Montrose, Colorado, U.S.A. They run tours of holistically managed farms and ranches around the world. Jim also writes a regular column for Holistic Management In Practice magazine. Contact him at

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