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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Medical Approach to Grassland Assessment

Authors
item Mitchell, Robert
item Vogel, Kenneth
item Schmer, Marty
item Vermeire, Lance

Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 30, 2003
Publication Date: February 1, 2004
Citation: Mitchell, R., Vogel, K.P., Schmer, M.R., Vermeire, L.T. 2004. The medical approach to grassland assessment. Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts. #259.

Technical Abstract: The goal of most grassland assessment techniques is to quantify the ecological condition of an area, and evaluate the potential of the area to meet current management objectives and maintain long-term sustainability. Often, this includes quantifying an existing problem to determine the best management practice to rectify the problem. This coincides closely with the diagnostic approach used in medicine. During a history and physical examination, the physician collects information on our complaints, social and personal history, and reviews our systems. This information matrix is then used to identify potential problems, and more specific evaluations can be conducted to determine the cause of the complaints. Management options to rectify the problem are then evaluated and selected based on risks and rewards to the patient. We believe this same approach can be effectively applied to grassland management. The first step to implementing this approach is to identify assessment tools that rapidly and effectively quantify important grassland parameters. Just as a full-body MRI is unnecessary to diagnose an ear infection, it is not necessary to clip numerous quadrats, separate by species, weigh, and determine species composition on a dry weight basis to quantify C4 grass invasion into a C3 grassland. We have developed the grassland assessment tool (GAT) to rapidly evaluate the frequency of species or functional groups, and estimate standing crop in native and improved grasslands. The GAT has been evaluated in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana, and appears to have utility in numerous grassland systems. Details of the tool and data from GAT scans of these grasslands will be presented.

Last Modified: 12/21/2014