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ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory » Research » Research Project #423956

Research Project: New Technologies to Enhance Sustainability of Northern Great Plains Grasslands

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

Project Number: 3064-21310-002-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 16, 2012
End Date: Oct 15, 2017

1) Develop low-cost techniques such as targeting grazing, fecal seeding, and cold-tolerant species seeding to modify or restore grassland vegetation; to extend forage quality into late summer, fall, and winter in the northern Great Plains; and improve grazing land productivity. (Objective A.1; NP215 Action Plan). 2) Improve production of yearling cattle and the healthfulness of their meat products in the northern Great Plains by improving producers’ ability to anticipate and respond to adverse environmental conditions by developing tools integrating long-term regional data on cattle growth, meat quality, supplementation, and climatic factors. (Objective A.2; NP215 Action Plan). 3) Develop more effective guidelines and affordable tools for the northern Great Plains for monitoring and managing livestock forage use and selecting conservation practices based on improved integration of field and remote sensing information. (Objective B.2; NP215 Action Plan). 4) Develop improved or modify existing ecologically based decision-support tools to aid land managers in selecting utilization, conservation and restoration strategies for hay and grazing lands in mixed-land use areas of the Great Plains. (Objective E.2; NP215 Action Plan).

Expanding human populations and biofuel production will require increased livestock production from existing grasslands. Increased production will come from improving the resource base and making cattle production less reliant on grain and more efficient at converting forage to meat. Because of societal expectations regarding sustainable use of natural resources, increases in livestock production must be balanced with the appropriate application of new technology to monitor and manage productivity and ecological health of grazing and hay-producing lands. This project will fill significant information gaps identified by livestock producers, land managers and action agencies as priority needs for managing forage and grazing lands. We will: 1) develop new techniques to improve abundance of cold-tolerant and palatable forbs and shrubs in grassland vegetation and extend forage quality into colder seasons; 2) determine relationships between climatic variations and livestock weight gains to improve production and reduce risk; 3) make more effective use of remote sensing information from plot and landscape levels to efficiently select conservation practices and manage livestock use of grazing resources; and 4) develop improved tools to aid public and private managers in selecting conservation and restoration strategies to improve the productivity and sustainability of hay, pasture and rangelands. Benefits from our research will include: improved productivity of cattle and profitability of cattle production, improved grassland management by public and private land managers, and new tools for monitoring and managing livestock forage use and for selecting and implementing conservation practices on grazing lands.