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: Stanford researchers rethink 'natural' habitat for wildlife

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

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Apr 18, 2014

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Apr 18, 2014

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Growing app industry has developers racing to keep up

Smartphone application developers say they are challenged by the glut of apps as well as the need to update their software to keep up with evolving phone technology, making creative pricing strategies essential to finding ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.