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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Precision Restoration: Using Innovative Technology to Overcome Ecological Barriers to Restoration of Sage-Steppe

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

2013 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
Project Objective 1: Identify and map key biotic and abiotic factors controlling seedling establishment across a heterogeneous landscape, and determine where newly developed seed-coating technologies and traditional reseeding strategies can be cost-effectively applied at spatial scales relevant to restoration practitioners. Project Objective 2: Seek useful relationships between process knowledge developed in Objective 1 to develop GIS-based models that: 1) predict the ecological barriers to reseeding success across a heterogeneous landscape, and 2) estimate the appropriate reseeding technology that can overcome these barriers. Project Objective 3: Provide a landscape-scale demonstration of how seed-coating technologies and traditional reseeding methods can be cost-effectively applied across a heterogeneous landscape. Project Objective 4: Conduct cost-benefit analysis of seed-coating treatments in relationship to standard restoration practices. Project Objective 5: Execute a comprehensive communication and outreach strategy to target audiences.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Obj.1 FY 13 Quantify differences in seedbed parameters important for seedling establishment at the NGBER. Plant and monitor first years seed enhancement study. FY 14 Plant and monitor year two’s seed enhancement study. Initiate small plot research at the Heart Rock Ranch (HRR). FY 15 Plant and monitor year two’s seed enhancement study. Plant year two’s small plot study at HRR and make recommendations for large-scale restoration on the ranch. Obj.2 FY13 Begin compiling measured and publically available ecological site characteristic data for incorporation into GIS-based models. FY14 Continue compilation of measured and publically available ecological site characteristic data. Evaluate ecological sites for key similarities, to inform strategic targeting of additional test sites and funds/partnerships necessary to do so. FY15 Continue compilation of measured and publically available ecological site characteristic data. FY16 Initiate GIS model framework and populate with Years 1-3 plot data to make predictions for determining appropriate reseeding technologies to achieve cost-effective restoration. FY17 Incorporate lessons from large-scale demonstration sites into GIS model and publications. Obj.3 FY14 Establish partnerships with commercial seed coating company(s) for future transfer of proven seed-enhancement technologies. FY15 Plan for, select sites, and gather pre-treatment data for large-scale demonstration. FY16 Continue development of seed enhancement manufacturing capacity. Assist HRR with large-scale demonstration. Install FY16 large-scale demonstration site. Conduct HRR post-treatment effectiveness monitoring. FY17 Complete post-treatment effectiveness monitoring of FY16 large-scale demonstration site. Obj.4 FY13 Initiate research for determining direct and effective costs associate with current rangeland reseeding practices. FY14 Initiate research for determining direct and effective costs of newly developed seed-enhancement treatments evaluated in this project. FY 15 Complete evaluation and comparison of direct and effective costs of traditional and developed seed enhancement technologies. Write and submit for publication one peer-reviewed journal article. Obj.5 FY14 Complete work on a publication that presents the use of seed-enhancement technology's in rangelands. Present concepts and preliminary results from seed-enhancement trials at scientific meetings. Submit for publication laboratory results from seed-enhancement trials in FY13. FY15 Submit for publication laboratory results from seed enhancement trials in FY14. FY16 Where appropriate, transfer methods and materials for applying proven seed coating technologies discovered in FY13-15 to commercial seed coating companies. Submit for publication results from small plot field trials from FY13-FY15, and laboratory results from FY15. Present results from trials at scientific meetings. FY17 Conduct field tours of large-scale demonstration sites. Complete, distribute and provide web access to a “Manager’s guide to sage-steppe reseeding practices,” and other produced media. Work with private companies in the commercialization of proven seed-enhancement technologies.

3. Progress Report:
Progress has been made on all objectives of this project. Under objective 1, we installed our first years small plot studies, which included 7 different bluebunch wheatgrass seeding treatments (surfactant coated seeds, agglomerated seeds, extruded pellets, hydrophobic coated seeds, seed pillows, and uncoated seed that were both drilled and broadcast) and 2 different Wyoming big sagebrush treatments (extruded pellets and uncoated seed). Seed treatments were planted in two unique ecological sites (Loamy 10-12 PZ and Clayey 10-12 PZ), on three different aspects (north facing, south facing, and flat). After planting, we monitored a host of edaphic, climatic and biotic factors (e.g. including soil penetration resistance, soil and air temperature, precipitation, wind speed, and seed germination and emergence timing and amount). To help fulfill objective 2, we compiled available GIS-based ecological site characteristics and data for the locations of our research plots. In accordance with objective 3, we started exploring options for establishing large-scale demonstration sites. We have initiated conversations with the Heart Rock Ranch, Burns District BLM, Burns Paiute Tribe, Broken Circle Ranch, and Aquatrols Corporation of America. We have committed to aiding the Heart Rock Ranch. At this site, small plots will be established this fall on the Heart Rock Ranch and results from these plots will be used to inform large-scale restoration implementation in 2014-15. We are also discussing a collaboration with Burns Paiute Tribe, who has offered to aid with labor, and purchase of materials and supplies for implementing a large-scale demonstration on their lands. We have met with Aquatrols Corporation of America and Summit Seed Coatings for applying a large-scale demonstration of our surfactant seed coating technology. To help meet objective 4, we are carefully documenting seed enhancement “recipes,” which enables estimation of production costs for subsequent cost-benefit analysis. We will make significant progress on this objective when we are able to manufacture seed enhancements on a larger scale. To meet tasks associated with objective 5, we presented on the seed enhancement technologies that we are developing to rangeland professionals at the Burns-ARS Range Field Days, and a separate presentation to a group of students from the University of Idaho. An ARS scientist, who is a Precision Restoration team member, was invited to present a keynote paper at the International Grasslands Congress (IGC) in Sydney Australia in September 2013. In conjunction with this presentation, our team prepared a manuscript for publication in the IGC proceedings. We also met in a joint meeting with Summit Seed Coatings and Aquatrols Corporation to discuss commercialization of our surfactant seed coating technology. Additionally, we have met with the Oregon Business Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center (OR BEST) to discuss commercialization of seed enhancements. OR BEST is a possible source of grant funds to assist with generating business investment and commercialization as we refine our technologies. This project relates to objective 1 of the parent project, "Develop practices and strategies for restoring perennial livestock forages on degraded and fire-prone Great Basin rangelands using combinations of grazing management, soil treatments, seed coatings, and traditional restoration techniques".

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 06/26/2017
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