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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: IMPROVED PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES FOR PASTURES AND RANGELANDS IN THE TEMPERATE SEMIARID REGIONS OF THE WESTERN U.S.

Location: Forage and Range Research

Title: Stand establishment and persistence of perennial cool-season grasses in the Intermountain West and Central and Northern Great Plains

Authors
item Robins, Joseph
item Jensen, Kevin
item Jones, Thomas
item Waldron, Blair
item Peel, Michael
item Rigby, Craig
item Vogel, Kenneth
item Mitchell, Robert
item Palazzo, Antonio -
item Cary, Timothy -

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 19, 2012
Publication Date: March 25, 2013
Citation: Robins, J.G., Jensen, K.B., Jones, T.A., Waldron, B.L., Peel, M., Rigby, C.W., Vogel, K.P., Mitchell, R., Palazzo, A.J., Cary, T.J. 2013. Stand establishment and persistence of perennial cool-season grasses in the Intermountain West and Central and Northern Great Plains. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 66:181-190.

Interpretive Summary: Through field studies carries out at over 30 sites across the Intermountain and Great Plains regions of the USA, perennial grass species were evaluated for their potential to establish and persist following seeding for revegetation on disturbed soils. Through these evaluations, a number of species were identified with high establishment potential, including the native species slender and thickspike wheatgrass. However, western wheatgrass was the only native species to persist at a level comparable to the persistence of crested wheatgrass. Thus, while many perennial grass species can successfully establish in disturbed soil settings, few also exhibit high levels of persistence over subsequent years. Results suggest that land managers should consider not only establishment, but also persistence, of grass species chosen for inclusion in seed mixes for revegetation of disturbed sites.

Technical Abstract: Revegetation of disturbed landscapes with perennial grasses is a common practice to stabilize soil resources and begin the process of restoring ecological function to the site. However, the success of revegetation seedings is often poor due to various reasons, one of which is the choice of grass species used on a particular site. To determine the utility and effectiveness of various perennial grass species for revegetation on varied landscapes, we evaluated the initial and stand persistences of several perennial cool-season grass species at 34 field sites in the Intermountain and Great Plains regions of the United States. The field sites represented a wide array of environmental conditions representative of arid and semiarid rangelands including precipitation, elevation, latitude, longitude, and soil type. Based on comparisons to crested wheatgrass (Agropyron spp. cristatum (L.) Gaertn. and desertorum (Fisch. ex Link) Schult.), several of the species examined had comparable stand establishment (~70%). However, slender (Elymus trachycaulus (Link) Gould ex Shinners) and thickspike wheatgrass (E. lanceolatus (Schribn. & J.G. Sm.) Gould) were the only North American native species to have stand establishment > 60%. Moreover, the differences between introduced and native species were more pronounced for stand persistence. Crested wheatgrass demonstrated 72% stand persistence, while western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii (Rydb.) A. Love) with 65% stand persistence was the only native grass to maintain stand persistence > 50%. Thus, when deciding among different perennial grass species for revegetation, land managers should consider a species' stand establishment and stand persistence in a Plant Adaptation Region or ecological site to ensure long-term site stability.

Last Modified: 9/20/2014