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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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National Program 205: Rangeland, Pasture, and Forages
Program Summary:
Strategic Vision
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Sustained and productive use of rangeland, pasture, and forages


Develop and transfer economically sustainable technologies and integrated management strategies, based on fundamental knowledge of ecological processes, that conserve and enhance the Nation's diverse natural resources of rangeland, pasture, and forages.

The research components of this program are:

Program Summary:
Program Rationale
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Publicly and privately owned range, pasture, and forage lands cover about 55% of the Nation's total land area. Found in all 50 states, these lands continue to contribute significantly to our agricultural, environmental, economic, and social well-being. The grazing and forages they provide are the foundation of the forage-livestock industry with its 60 million beef and dairy cattle and 8 million sheep that contribute more than $60 billion in farm sales annually. In addition, the annual $11 billion hay crop is the third most valuable crop after corn and soybeans. These highly diverse lands, extending from eastern pastures and hay fields to western prairies and deserts, provide habitat for an infinite variety of plant and animal life, including 20 million deer, 500,000 pronghorn antelope, 400,000 elk, and 55,000 feral horses and burros. Because of the vastness and diversity of range, pasture, and forage lands, they also play a vital role in providing open space, air and water quality, and an endless array of recreational opportunities. Despite the economic magnitude of the forage-livestock sector, it is highly dispersed. For example, more than a million farms and ranches are involved in beef and dairy cattle production, and 80% of these producers have fewer than a hundred head of cattle and calves while 34% have fewer than 20 head. Consequently, these producers frequently have very limited means to manage the complex mix of resource values found on their lands.

Managing these resource-rich but often fragile lands to meet the needs of a growing population and rapidly expanding economy is becoming increasingly challenging. Producers, land managers, and environmental regulators need improved plant materials, ecologically, based livestock production systems, and innovative decision-support and monitoring tools if they are to meet individual and national goals. The ARS has a network of 42 research locations in 31 states addressing rangeland, pasture and forage problems. This national network offers a unique research capability to provide the science-based information essential for achieving economically and environmentally sustainable uses of private and public range, pasture, and forage lands.

Program Summary:
Projected Outcomes
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Projected Outcomes

Basic and applied interdisciplinary research on rangeland, pasture and forage production and conservation will contribute to economic and environmental sustainability by providing:

  • Improved techniques and management strategies for assess and, where needed, mitigate livestock grazing impacts on soil and water resources.
  • Improved and evaluated native and introduced forage germplasm to enhance
  • forage establishment, productivity, digestibility, and persistence, and to improve
  • natural resource conservation including protecting biodiversity.
  • Improved techniques and management strategies to enable acceptable levels of animal reproduction and survival on range and pasture lands.
  • Improved techniques and coordinated strategies, including the use of livestock grazing, to control and manage of weeds and other pests.
  • Improved and evaluated tools, standards and measurements, and information systems to assess and monitoring the status of rangeland, pasture, and forage ecosystems and agroecosystems.
  • Improved techniques and management strategies to produce profitable high-quality livestock products from grazing-based systems.

  • Improved and demonstrated science-based decision support systems to aid in the integrated and sustainable management of natural resources, including livestock and wildlife grazing on rangeland, pasture, and forage lands.
  • Improved and evaluated ecologically-based techniques and strategies to repair and manage degraded ecological systems.
  • Increased efficiency of forage production, harvesting and conservation techniques to enhance year-round availability of affordable livestock feed.
  • Improved demonstration and information transfer of research findings to promote sustainable economic development through improved rangeland, pasture and forage management systems that enhance profitability, product diversification, resource conservation and risk management.

Last Modified: 5/14/2001