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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Long Term Grazing Research
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A century ago, Johnson Thatcher Sarvis and a small group of scientists at Mandan set out to answer a very practical question: how many acres of native prairie does it take to support a steer during the grazing season? To answer that question they began a stocking rate study in 1915 on 250 acres of native mixed grass prairie. Part of that original experiment continues today as one of the longest running experiments in North America. In addition to answering the original question, the scientists gathered some of the first data on grazing resilience of native grasses, determined the critical role of soil moisture in maintaining rangeland productivity on the semi-arid northern plains, and generated applied ecological insights on the persistence and resilience of native prairie during the worst drought of the last millennium. The foresight of Sarvis and others ensured that these long-term pastures continue to serve as a unique resource to address new 21st century questions about drought, soil quality, greenhouse gas emissions, invasive species, and climate change.

Johnson Thatcher Sarvis established the experiment in 1915 and managed it until 1940. The experiment was continued by George Rogler from 1940 to 1952. Russell Lorenz and Dr. Rogler continued the experiment from 1953 to 1973. Dr. Lorenz managed the experiment from 1974 until he retired in 1979. The experiment was continued by Dr. Lenat Hofmann from 1980 to 1992. Dr. Jim Karn managed the experiment from 1993 to his retirement in 2002. Numerous technicians and part-time students were also involved in the day to day management and conduct of the experiment. We would like to recognize these scientists and support staff for their extraordinary foresight and determination in adeptly managing and continuing this experiment.

Here, we provide links to the scientific papers generated by the research

1. Shepperd, J.H. 1919 Carrying capacity of native range grasses in North Dakota. J. Amer. Soc. Agron. 11:129-142.
2. Sarvis, J.T. 1920. Composition and density of the native vegetation in the vicinity of the Northern Great Plains Field Station. J. Agric. Res.19:63-72.
3. Sarvis, J.T. 1923. Effects of different systems and intensities of grazing upon the native vegetation at the Northern Great Plains Field Station. USDA Bull. 1170.
4. Stephens, J.M., R. Wilson, W.P. Baird, J.T. Sarvis, J.C. Thysell, T.K. Killand, J.C. Brinsmade. 1925. Report of the Northern Great Plains Field Station for the 10-year period, 1913-1922, inclusive. USDA Dept. Bull. No. 301. Washington, DC.
5. Sarvis, J.T. 1930. Application of agronomic methods in range research. Ecology 11:777-782.
6. Hopper, T.H., and L.L. Nesbitt. 1930. The chemical composition of some North Dakota pasture and hay grasses. North Dakota Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 236. 38 pp.
7. Christensen, F.W., and T.H. Hopper. 1932. Effect of weathering and stage of maturity on the palatability and nutritive value of prairie hay. North Dakota Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 260. 55 pp.
8. Sarvis, J.T. 1941. Grazing investigations on the northern Great Plains. North Dakota Agricultural College Bulletin 308. Fargo, ND.
9. Rogler, G.A. 1944. Summer gains of yearling Hereford steers on native and cultivated pastures. North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station Biomonthly Bulletin 6:20-27.
10. Rogler, G.A., and H.J. Haas. 1947. Range production as related to soil moisture and precipitation on the Northern Great Plains. J. Amer. Soc. Agron. 39:378-389.
11. Rogler, G.A. 1951. A twenty-five year comparison of continuous and rotation grazing on the northern Plains. J. Range Manage. 4:35-41.
12. Rogler, G.A., and R.J. Lorenz. 1957. Nitrogen fertilization of Northern Great Plains rangelands. J. Range Mange. 10:156-160.
13. Smika, D. E., H. J. Haas, G. A. Rogler, and R. J. Lorenz. 1961. Chemical properties and moisture extraction in rangeland soils as influenced by nitrogen fertilization. J. Range Manage. 14:213-216.
14. Smika, D.E., H.J. Haas, and G.A. Rogler. 1963. Native grass and crested wheatgrass production as influenced by fertilizer placement and weed control. J. Range Manage. 16:5-8.
15. Lorenz, R. J. and G. A. Rogler. 1967. Grazing and fertilization affect root development of range grasses. J. Range Manage. 20:129-132.
16. Lorenz, Russell J. and George A. Rogler. 1972. Forage production and botanical composition of mixed prairie as influenced by nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization. Agron. J. 64:244-249.
17. Lorenz, Russell J. and George A. Rogler. 1973. Interaction of fertility level with harvest date and frequency on productiveness of mixed prairie. J. Range Manage. 26:50-54.
18. Lorenz, Russell J. and George A. Rogler. 1973. Growth rate of mixed prairie in response to nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization. J. Range Manage. 26:365-368.
19. Aase, J.K., A.B. Frank, and R.J. Lorenz. 1987. Radiometric reflectance measurements of northern great plains rangeland and crested wheatgrass pastures. J. Range Manage. 40:299-302.
20. Frank, A. B., and L. Hofmann. 1989. Relationship among grazing management, growing degree?days, and morphological development for native grasses on the Northern Great Plains. J. Range Manage. 42:199?202.
21. Frank, A. B. 1991. Morphological development of crested and western wheatgrass following grazing. Agron. J. 83:826?828.
22. Frank, A.B., K.K. Sedivec, and L. Hofmann. 1993. Determining grazing readiness for native and tame pastures. North Dakota State University Extension Service Bulletin. R?1061.
23. Frank, A. B., and J. K. Aase. 1994. Residue effects on radiometric reflectance measurements of Northern Great Plains rangeland. Remote Sens. Environ. 49:195-199.
24. Frank, A. B., D. L. Tanaka, L. Hofmann, and R. F. Follett. 1995. Soil carbon and nitrogen of Northern Great Plains grasslands as influenced by long-term grazing. J. Range Manage. 48:470-474.
25. Frank, A.B. 1996. Evaluating grass development for grazing management. Rangelands 18:106-109.
26. Wienhold, B. J., J. R. Hendrickson, and J. F. Karn. 2001. Pasture management influences on soil properties in the Northern Great Plains. J. Soil and Water Conserv. 56:27-31.
27. Frank, A.B., and W.A. Dugas. 2001. Carbon dioxide fluxes over a northern, semiarid, mixed-grass prairie. Agric. Forest Meteorol. 108:317-326.
28. Frank, A.B. 2002. Carbon dioxide fluxes over a grazed prairie and seeded pasture in the Northern Great Plains. Environ. Poll. 116:397-403.
29. Frank, A.B., M.A. Liebig, and J.D. Hanson. 2002. Soil carbon dioxide fluxes in northern semiarid grasslands. Soil Biol. Biochem. 34:1235-1241.
30. Frank, A.B., and J.F. Karn. 2003. Vegetation indices, CO2 flux, and biomass for Northern Plains grasslands. J. Range Manage. 56:382-387.
31. Frank, A.B. 2003. Evapotranspiration from northern semiarid grasslands. Agron. J. 95:1504-1509.
32. Frank, A.B. 2003. Six years of CO2 flux measurements for a moderately grazed mixed-grass prairie. Environ. Manage. 33:S426-S431
33. Frank, A.B., and J.F. Karn. 2004. Shrub effects on carbon dioxide and water vapor fluxes over grasslands. Rangeland Ecol. Manage 58:20-26.
34. Gilmanov, T.G., L.L. Tieszen, B.K. Wylie, L.L. Flanagan, A.B. Frank, M.R. Haferkamp, and J.A. Morgan. 2005. Integration of CO2 flux and remotely sensed data for primary production and ecosystem respiration analysis in the Northern Great Plains: potential for Quantitative spatial extrapolation. Global Ecol. Biogeo. 14:271-292.
35. Liebig, M. A., J.R. Gross, S.L. Kronberg, J.D. Hanson, A.B. Frank, and R.L. Phillips. 2006. Soil response of long-term grazing in the northern Great Plains of North America. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 115:270-276.
36. Phillips, R.L., O. Beeri, and M. Liebig. 2006. Landscape estimation of canopy C:N ratios under variable drought stress in Northern Great Plains. J. Geophysical Res. 111, G02015, doi:10.1029/2005JG000135.
37. Wylie, B.K., E.A. Fosnight, T.G. Gilmanov, A.B. Frank, J.A. Morgan, M.R. Haferkamp, and T.P. Meyers. 2007. Adaptive data-driven models for estimating carbon fluxes in the Northern Great Plains. Remote Sensing of Environment 106:399-413.
38. Beeri, O., R. Phillips, J. Hendrickson, A.B. Frank, and S. Kronberg. 2007. Estimating forage quantity and quality using aerial hyperspecrtal imagery for northern mixed-grass prairie. Remote Sensing of the Environ. 110:216-225
39. Frank, A.B., M.A. Liebig, and D.L. Tanaka. 2006. Management effects on soil CO2 efflux in northern semiarid grassland and cropland. Soil and Tillage Res. 89:78-85.
40. Liebig, M.A., S.L. Kronberg, and J.R. Gross. 2008. Effects of normal and altered cattle urine on short-term greenhouse gas flux from mixed-grass prairie in the Northern Great Plains. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 125:57-64.
41. Liebig, M.A., D.J. Wikenheiser, and K.A. Nichols. 2008. Opportunities to utilize the USDA-ARS Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory soil sample archive. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. J. 72:975-977.
42. Polley, H.W., A.B. Frank, J. Sanabria and R.L. Phillips. 2008. Interannual variability in carbon dioxide fluxes and flux-climate relationships on grazed and ungrazed northern mixed-grass prairie. Global Change Biol. 14:1620-1632.
43. Phillips, R., O. Beeri, E. Scholljegerdes, D. Bjergaard, J. Hendrickson. 2009. Integration of geospatial and cattle nutrition information to estimate paddock grazing capacity in northern U.S. prairie. Agric. Syst. 100:72-79.
44. Polley, H. W., W. Emmerich, J.A. Bradford, P.L. Sims, D.A. Johnson, N.Z. Saliendra, T. Svejcar, R. Angell, A.B. Frank, R.L. Phillips, K.A. Snyder, and J.A. Morgan. 2010. Physiological and environmental regulation of interannual variability in CO2 exchange on rangelands in the western United States. Global Change Biol. 16:990-1002.
45. Gilmanov, T.G., L. Aires, Z. Barcza, V.S. Baron, L. Belelli, J. Beringer, D. Billesbach, D. Bonal, J. Bradford, E. Ceschia, D. Cook, C. Corradi, A. Frank, D. Gianelle, C. Gimeno, T. Gruenwald, H. Guo, N. Hanan, L. Haszpra, J. Heilman, A. Jacobs, M.B. Jones, D.A. Johnson, G. Kiely, S. Li, V. Magliulo, E. Moors, Z. Nagy, M. Nasyrov, C. Owensby, K. Pinter, C. Pio, M. Reichstein, M.J. Sanz, R. Scott, J.F. Soussana, P.C. Stoy, T. Svejcar, Z. Tuba, and G. Zhou. 2010. Productivity, respiration, and light-response parameters of world grassland and agroecosystems derived from flux-tower measurements. Rangeland Ecol. Manage. 63:16-39.
46. Liebig, M.A., J.R. Gross, S.L. Kronberg, R.L. Phillips, and J.D. Hanson. 2010. Grazing management contributions to net global warming potential: a long-term evaluation in the Northern Great Plains. J. Environ. Qual. 39:799-809.
47. Smart, A.J., J.D. Derner, J.R. Hendrickson. R.L. Gillen, B.H. Dunn, E.M. Mousel, P.S. Johnson, R.N. Gates, K.K. Sedivec. K.R. Harmoney, J.D. Volesky, and K.C. Olson. 2010. Effects of grazing pressure on efficiency of grazing on North American Great Plains rangelands. Rangeland Ecol. Manage. 63:397-406.
48. Polley, H.W., R.L. Phillips, A.B. Frank, J. A. Bradford, P.L. Sims, J.A. Morgan, and J.R. Kiniry. 2011. Variability in light-use efficiency for gross primary productivity on Great Plains grasslands. Ecosystems 14:15-27.
49. Liebig, M.A., S.L. Kronberg, J.R. Hendrickson, X. Dong, and J.R. Gross. 2013. Carbon dioxide efflux from long-term grazing management systems in a semiarid region. Agric. Ecosys. Environ. 164:137-144.
50. Liebig, M.A., S.L. Kronberg, J.R. Hendrickson, and J.R. Gross. 2014. Grazing management, season, and drought contributions to near-surface soil property dynamics in semiarid rangeland. Rangeland Ecol. Manage. 67:266-274.
51. Reeves, J.L., J.D. Derner, M.A. Sanderson, J.R. Hendrickson, S.L. Kronberg, M.K. Petersen, and L.T. Vermeire. 2014. Seasonal weather influences on yearling beef steer production n C3-dominated Northern Great Plains rangeland. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 183:110-117.
52. Toledo, D.T., M.A. Sanderson, K.E. Spaeth, J.R. Hendrickson, and J.L. Printz. 2014. Extent of Kentucky bluegrass and its effect on native plant species diversity and ecosystem services in the Northern Great Plains of the USA. Invasive Plant Sci. Manage. 7:543-552
53. Sanderson, M.A., M.A. Liebig, J.R. Hendrickson, S.L. Kronberg, D. Toledo, J.D. Derner, and J.L. Reeves. 2015. Long-term agroecosystem research on northern Great Plains mixed-grass prairie near Mandan, North Dakota. Can. J. Plant Sci. 95:1101-1116.
54. Sanderson, M.A., M.A. Liebig, J.R. Hendrickson, S.L. Kronberg, D. Toledo, J.D. Derner, and J.L. Reeves. 2016.A century of grazing: the value of long-term research. J. Soil and Water Conserv. 71:5A-9A.


Last Modified: 2/14/2017
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