Plant breeding helps revive western rangelands

Feb 12, 2010

For more than two decades, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have been developing new grasses and forages that can hold their own on the rugged rangelands of the western United States. As a result of that work, the scientists have released many improved plant varieties that help restore vegetation communities struggling for survival in the face of extreme weather conditions, wildfires, soil erosion, invasive plant species and other challenges.

Research leader Jack Staub and other scientists at the ARS Forage and Range Research Laboratory (FRRL) in Logan, Utah, use genetic material from both native and introduced plant sources in their breeding work. In some cases, they begin with introduced grasses and then follow up with the use of as soil conditions improve.

In 1984, FRRL scientists partnered in the development of Hycrest crested wheatgrass, which became the leading crested wheatgrass grown on the western rangelands for approximately 10 years. It provides forage in the early spring and summer, stabilizes the soil, holds its own against aggressive invasive grasses and thrives in as little as 8 inches of annual precipitation.

Building on this success, FRRL scientists have now developed Hycrest II, which was bred for reseeding rangelands that have been overrun by annual weeds after wildfires, and other disturbances. It offers improved establishment and exceeds Hycrest in seedlings established per acre.

Vavilov II, a Siberian wheatgrass cultivar that can help hold invasive cheatgrass at bay on especially dry and harsh sandy rangelands, was also created at the FRRL. And as competition for water supplies increases, FRRL scientists are developing pasture and turfgrasses better adapted to reduced irrigation. For instance, the meadow bromegrass cultivar Cache begins growth in the early spring and stays green and succulent longer than tall fescue and orchardgrass.

Results from this work have been published in the Journal of Plant Registrations, Native Journal, Applied Turfgrass Science and elsewhere.

Explore further: Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

More information: Read more about these studies and other plant varieties developed at the FRRL in the February 2010 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available online at: www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive… feb10/plants0210.htm

Provided by United States Department of Agriculture

4 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Livestock Can Help Rangelands Recover from Fires

Oct 01, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A 14-year study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Oregon found that rangelands that have been grazed by cattle recover from fires more effectively than rangelands that have ...

Time-Tunneling for Climate Change Clues

Nov 23, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- If you look closely at individual plant species' responses in the past, you may find that the largest effects of high carbon dioxide (CO2) levels occurred decades ago, according to Agricultural ...

Can hemp help the everglades?

Aug 06, 2007

Within Southern Florida, soil and water conditions indicate potential for leaching from the use of atrazine-based herbicides in corn crops. Scientists from USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and University ...

Recommended for you

Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

3 hours ago

Bent and tossed by the wind, a field of soybean plants presents a challenge for an Asian lady beetle on the hunt for aphids. But what if the air—and the soybeans—were still?

Asian stars enlisted to fight African rhino poaching

13 hours ago

Increasingly desperate South African conversationists are turning to a multi-national team of "rhino ambassadors" to try to end the scourge of poaching—and Vietnamese pop diva Hong Nhung has been recruited ...

Tropical fish a threat to Mediterranean Sea ecosystems

Sep 18, 2014

The tropical rabbitfish which have devastated algal forests in the eastern Mediterranean Sea pose a major threat to the entire Mediterranean basin if their distribution continues to expand as the climate ...

User comments : 0