U.S. Western rangelands are often severely disturbed by fires, erosion, and invasive weed infestation. Re-seeding these disturbed rangelands with genetically improved plant materials is often the most plausible and economically feasible way to reclaim such sites. The FRRL is developing improved rangeland grasses, legumes, and forbs to meet this demand to ensure rangeland biodiversity and revegetation success.
Biosystematic, taxonomic, and applied plant breeding research are used to develop improved plant materials on a broad spectrum of species. Research follows three basic phases:
- acquisition and characterization of germplasm representative from around the world
- inter-genetic and inter-specific hybridization is utilized to broaden the genetic base of rangeland and pasture plants
- develop an array of improved grasses for upgrading private and public lands in the Western U.S.
The project has three main objectives:
- To develop wheatgrass (crested, Siberian, and Snake River wheatgrass), and wildrye (Russian, Basin, and Salina wildrye) cultivars with increased germination, seedling establishment, biomass, and persistence that are better able to compete against undesirable weedy species in disturbed dryland environments.
- To develop improved irrigated pasture grasses (meadow bromegrass and orchardgrass) that exhibit increased carrying capacity on irrigated and semi-irrigated pastures. Traits of interest include forage production, quality (WSC), tolerance to grazing, and performance under reduced irrigation.
- Plant improvement will be carried out using traditional phenotypic recurrent selection and wide hybridization. The development of these plant materials will provide the land managers/ranchers with a cadre of plant materials increasing biodiversity and increasing the sustainability of Western rangelands.