Tube Helps Establish Seedlings on
Rangeland By Kathryn Barry Stelljes
December 20, 2000
Small, plastic tubes designed by
Agricultural Research Service rangeland
scientist Terrance Booth could help reestablish native shrubs on rangeland
denuded by fire.
Booth tubes are made of half-inch-diameter, scored,
clear plastic. Each tube contains a soil mixture and a seedling that has been
grown from seed in the greenhouse for two weeks. The tubes are pushed into the
ground up to four inches deep, with up to three inches remaining above ground
to serve as a mini-greenhouse and windbreak for the tiny seedlings.
Fueled by weeds, large rangeland fires have destroyed millions
of acres of native habitat. Land managers revegetate these areas by
broadcasting seeds or direct seeding methods, or by transplanting young plants
from the greenhouse.
Wind, sandstorms and rodent predation take a large toll on
seedlings. Survival rates range from less than 0.1 percent for broadcast
sagebrush seeds to 70 or 80 percent with transplants.
Because the Booth tubes protect the seedlings, they can be
planted in the field sooner than traditional transplants. The shorter
greenhouse time could cut costs and make the practice more competitive with
direct seeding costs. So far, the tubes have achieved about 70 percent seedling
survival in experimental plantings. They have proven effective with sagebrush,
winterfat, bitterbrush, four-wing saltbush, prairie flowers and even some
The thin-walled tubes--about the thickness of two pieces of
paper--break down at the soil surface after two or three years.
Bitterroot Restoration Incorporated in Corvallis, Mont., has
established a cooperative research and development agreement to develop a
commercial revegetation system using the tubes.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Scientific contact: D. Terrance Booth, ARS
High Plains Grassland Research
Station, Cheyenne, Wyo., phone (307) 772-2433, fax (307) 637-6124, firstname.lastname@example.org.