Sheep were grazing on the University of California-Davis campus this week in an academic experiment to see if sheep can eat weeds and grass, fertilize and control pests, as well as – or better than – using conventional gardening methods.
The Woolly Sheep are part of a multidisciplinary study to explore the possibilities of saving money and resources on campus at the same time.
“My interest is to take the science of green infrastructure and sustainability and design it to be interactive, beautiful and practical,” said A. Haven Kiers, assistant professor of landscape architecture in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, who is leading the project.
Kiers has hired student sheep herders to monitor the sheep’s three-day stay in the grassy area along Old Davis Road, adjacent to the UC Davis arboretum.
Kiers is a longtime advocate for green infrastructure, such as green roofs that plants can be grown on and cityscapes that are aesthetically pleasing and ecologically productive. The sheep herding pilot project is a natural consequence of that research.
He said he is bringing his concept of Nature HEALS (for health, engagement, aesthetics, landscapes and sustainability) to campus to emulate a historical practice throughout France, and even at the White House and in Central Park, and provide a pastoral environment to UC Davis and hopefully spawn that idea for other campuses and municipalities on a larger scale.
The sheep did a full day’s work Wednesday through Friday this week, eating snacks from 8 am to 5 pm For control, the campus maintained the adjacent acre of grassland with traditional gardens in the usual way. The height and condition of the grass will be evaluated at each site before and after the grass.
There are four breeds of sheep, all used for their wool, involved in the study: Suffolk, Hampshire, Southdown, and Dorset, said Matthew Hayes, who manages the UC Davis sheep.
Don’t worry about cleanliness either. “(The manure) only stays for 10 days and actually attracts insects that are beneficial to the landscape.”
Look a Reuters video about the project …
In a proposal he presented to the campus, Kiers said: “Sheep can eliminate invasive plants and restore native grasses, reduce carbon emissions, introduce beneficial insects attracted to their waste products, and improve soil health without compacting the soil. . Culturally, adding sheep to a green space can add pastoral beauty to a site, provide a sense of place, inspire urban agritourism, serve as a living educational tool, and promote mental health. “
However, there is little peer-reviewed evidence to support those claims when it comes to grassy urban landscapes, he added. Kiers aims to change that with his research, which will continue on and off over the summer, and he hopes to spread the idea to other parts of campus, and to the world, in the future.
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