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Central Plains Experimental Research Location
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Central Plains Experimental Range

Central Plains Experimental Range

Station Size 15,500 acres (6280 ha)
Elevation 5250-5550 ft
Annual Precipitation 12.8 inches (historical)
Growing Season 133 Days
Rangeland Type Short Grass Prairie
70% Blue grama, 10% Other grasses, 10% Shrubs, 10% broad-leaved plants and cactus
Annual Production 625 lb/acre
Cattle Carrying Capacity 4 acres per animal unit

Apply HERE to conduct research on the CPER


In the mid 1930's, many farms and ranches of the western Great Plains were abandoned due to drought, overgrazing and soil blown from plowed fields. The U.S. Forest Service requested that the Central Plains Experimental Range (CPER) be established to research improved management practices on fragile grasslands. The first research project was initiated in 1939 by the U.S. Forest Service. The Agricultural Act of 1953 reorganized the USDA and transferred administration of the CPER from the Forest Service to the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Grazing studies begun in the 1930's are still being conducted to evaluate the long-term impacts of livestock on rangeland resources. Early studies at CPER focused on understanding plant life on native prairie and abandoned plowed lands, and on gaining knowledge of experimental techniques for measuring vegetation and livestock responses to different grazing systems. Numerous seeding trials for various range grasses were conducted; the resulting principles are used by consultants today. One of the most widely used scientific findings from past research at the CPER is livestock management decision-making based on ungrazed residue. Applicable information has been used to aid producers from Iceland to Africa. CPER was a part of the world wide Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program. Colorado State University and the Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory (NREL) have conducted extensive research at the site. 


The Rangeland Resources and Systems Research Unit has supported multiple long-term research programs including the International Biome Program (IBP), the U.S. Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network, and currently, the USDA Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network. ARS scientists and their collaborators work together on interdisciplinary research addressing specific stakeholder and national issues in rangeland management.  Approximately 120 data sets contributing to these research efforts are discoverable in Ag Data Commons, a digital repository curated by the National Agricultural Library.  For specific questions regarding access to data, please contact our data manager, Nicole Kaplan.