Location: Forage and Range Research2010 Annual Report
1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
Evaluate and develop new germplasm and cultivars with enhanced seed production, germination, seedling vigor, salinity tolerance, winter hardiness, drought tolerance, and forage yield and quality and verify their ability to improve the sustainability and productivity of rangelands and pastures in the semiarid western U.S. • Objective 1: Collect, characterize, and evaluate grass, legume, and forb germplasm for genetic variation, adaptation, establishment and forage characteristics for use on Western rangelands and the rangeland-urban interface. • Objective 2: Describe and identify useful traits for improved forages, using physiological, biochemical, and genomic techniques. • Objective 3: Identify breeding and selection strategies to make plant selection more effective. • Objective 4: Develop germplasm/pre-variety germplasm/cultivars of grasses, legumes, and forbs with improved seed production, seedling establishment, forage production, persistence, and drought tolerance on rangelands of the Western U.S. • Objective 5: Develop and evaluate new plant cultivars that are more tolerant of biotic and abiotic stresses, more competitive, more persistent, and easier to establish and maintain in irrigated pastures in the Intermountain West. • Objective 6: Identify functional differences between invasive weeds and improved plant materials and evaluate potential methods and improved plant materials to diversify crested wheatgrass communities.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Combine expertise of a research team of plant breeders, plant physiologists, ecologists, and molecular biologists to acquire, characterize, and breed native and introduced range, pasture, low-maintenance turf, and bioenergy plant materials. There is a need for additional plant materials for the conservation, restoration, renovation, and reclamation of range and forage lands, including irrigated pastures. New releases will provide improved plants needed to establish and maintain economically and environmentally sustainable pastures and rangelands in the semiarid regions of the Intermountain West. Identify new sources of genetic diversity for cultivar development. Describe establishment of grasses, legumes, and forbs characteristics such as ability to sustain high quality forage on disturbed sites under grazing pressure when competing with invasive weeds, and important physiological and biochemical mechanisms. Molecular and cytogenetic approaches will be used to identify and characterize genetic mechanisms to improve efficiency of genetic enhancement and plant breeding. The competitive ability of released plant materials will be enhanced for traits such as seed germination, seedling vigor, rhizome development, salinity tolerance, drought tolerance, and forage quality and yield. The new plant materials will be evaluated for their improved ability to perform key ecological functions, satisfying the diverse needs of our customers. Evaluate potential invasiveness of new plant germplasm.
3. Progress Report
Breeding efforts at the Forage and Range Research Laboratory (FRRL) to collect, characterize, evaluate, and develop improved plant materials for turf, pastures, and rangelands adapted to the western United States continues in native and introduced legumes (spreading alfalfa, prairie clovers, cicer milkvetch, Kura clover, sainfoin, birdsfoot trefoil, and Utah sweetvetch), forbs (globemallow, small burnet, and forge kochia), dryland range grasses (crested and Siberian wheatgrass (WG), bluebunch WG, thickspike WG, Snake River WG, western WG, Russian wildrye (WR), bottlebrush squirreltail, and slender wheatgrass), irrigated pasture grasses (tall fescue, orchardgrass, meadow brome, timothy, and creeping foxtail), and low-maintenance turf grasses (bluegrasses, fine fescues, and crested WG). Traits of interest include increased forage yield and quality (CP, NDF, IVTD, and lignin), seed yield, germination, establishment, drought tolerance (persistence), heat tolerance, water stress, salinity tolerance, abiotic stresses, and turf quality. Irrigated pastures work has resulted in the development of two experimental orchardgrass synthetics (early maturing and late maturing), currently under a CRADA. Seed collections from Kyrgyzstan, China, and Russia were evaluated for their potential for reduced-input turfgrass applications. Over 200 bluebunch wheatgrass collections from the Great Basin were evaluated for germination and seedling emergence. Field and DNA-fingerprinting studies describing patterns of genetic diversity for western and Searls prairie clover, North American wildryes, and fine fescues. DNA genotyping of an Elymus genetic mapping population with AFLP and SSR microsatellite markers resulted in a consensus genetic map of Elymus lanceolatus that contains all 14 linkage groups. Genetics tools including EST-SSR markers continue to be developed in wildryes (Leymus sp.), wheat grasses (Elymus sp.), Thinopyrum sp., orchardgrass (Dactylis sp.), and bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria sp.) for rhizome development, flowering, heavy metal uptake, plant height, winter hardiness, and salinity tolerance. Phenotypic measurements to determine the affect of marker-assisted selection for the seed-retention gene in advanced Leymus breeding populations were measured. DNA finger printing protocols to differentiate species of mannagrass from annual ryegrass and populations of Poa sp. were developed. As part of our technology transfer program, the FRRL continues to work via Material Transfer Agreements with private growers to evaluate improved genetic material and increase commercial seed production of western and Searls prairie clover and Recovery western wheatgrass for commercial seed production. Foundation seed production of a rhizomatous grazing/rangeland alfalfa was initiated. Three different ecosystems in the Great Basin were evaluated using paired sets of historically dry-farmed land and adjacent areas that have never been cultivated. This research identified that land-use legacies of dry farming have striking consequences on vegetation recovery for nearly a century after cultivation has ceased.
5. Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
During 2010, the Forage and Range Research Lab conducted on outreach program that included speakers from FRRL and surrounding University Extension Specialists. These sites included Kanab UT; St. George UT; Dillon MT; Billings MT; and Ritzville WA. These programs addressed the following subjects; pasture grasses and legumes, adaptation of rangeland plants (grasses, forbs, and legumes), when and how to plant rangelands, and seeding mixtures. Attendance at each meetings ranged from 25 to 180 and included ranchers, farmers, and public land agencies. Distributed at each program were handouts and the ‘Intermountain Planting Guide’. Given the response of the last four years to program survey’s we will continue to go out each year.
Robins, J.G. 2010. Cool-Season Grasses Produce More Biomass Across the Growing Season than do Warm-Season Grasses when Managed with an Applied Irrigation Gradient. Biomass and Bioenergy. 34:500-505.