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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

To Help Streams Run Clear, Short Grass Does as Well as Tall

By Dennis Senft
December 30, 1996

Grasses and sedges clipped short are as effective as taller stubble vegetation in trapping sediment being washed into streams.

That’s important news for land management agencies seeking information on how to rehabilitate overused areas--such as areas damaged by recreation or livestock grazing along rivers and streams.

The key is the width of the grass barrier, not the height of the stubble, say scientists at the Agricultural Research Service.

A grass barrier 30 feet wide will reduce sediments in overland runoff by 98%, according to results from a cooperative 2-year study by ARS and Colorado State University.

The scientists used a large rotating irrigation boom to simulate rainfall over two test sites along Sheep Creek in northern Colorado’s Roosevelt National Forest. They discovered stubble as short as 1 inch could slow water flow and trap sediment as effectively as stubble up to 6 inches tall.

Scientific contact: Gary W. Frasier, USDA-ARS Rangeland Resources Research Unit , Fort Collins, Colo., phone (970) 498-4232,

Last Modified: 5/15/2017
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