The benefits of assessing your roots

Ever dug a plant up on your property just to check out its roots? According to anecdotal research of RCS Chief of Delivery, David McLean, most of you haven’t. And if you ask him, you should.

Check out those roots

I was driving around with a mate at his station in the Pilbara recently. We were talking all things cattle, business, people and grass so I suggested we pull up and dig up a couple of plants. I was surprised to hear that he had never done this at his place before. We pulled up a number of times to see what was happening beneath our feet. To be more specific, we were looking at what was happening with the plant root systems.

How we manage our grazing animals has an enormous impact on plant roots. Leave the animals to graze the sweet grass too long, and you get short root systems. Leave the animals out of a paddock for too long, and you’ll also get short root systems. Grass needs stimulation. It has evolved to need things like grazing, cutting, burning and mowing to survive. It just happens we make more money out of grazing them. We go into this in detail in RCS courses.

“Whenever you get the chance, take a shovel out in the paddock with you. It doesn’t take long to dig up a few plants and see what is happening below ground.”

So let’s keep it simple. Whenever you get the chance, take a shovel out in the paddock with you. It doesn’t take long to dig up a few plants and see what is happening below ground.

For us, we weren’t trying to dig up too many spinifex plants on gibber stone country. We tended towards the softer flats – exactly where the cattle were choosing to graze as well.

Compare a few plants around watering points where you’ll have short grass. Then look at some in a fenced off area that hasn’t been grazed as much. Find a plant in an exclusion area like a tree guard that hasn’t been grazed or cut for years – see what’s happening there. Get the kids and team members involved.

The depth, activity and diversity of root systems in your country is central to every aspect of profitability in your business. It impacts everything from rainfall infiltration to drought, fire and flood recovery. Root systems are our primary tool to improve soil health which influences productivity and therefore profit. Yet we don’t spend enough time monitoring what is happening and learning as we go. I said it once and I’ll say it again: take a shovel with you.

I was delighted to hear that when my mate visited some stations in Central Queensland in the following weeks he ‘dug up every buffel plant in CQ’, checking out the roots at every place he went. Many of the places he visited commented they’d never done it before either.

Happy digging.


David McLean

David McLean

Chief of Delivery

RCS Logo

Join our mailing list

Can we help? Have a question?

We get it! Complete the form below and we'll give you a quick call to answer your questions.