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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Rangeland Restoration on the Channel Scablands of eastern Washington

Location: Poisonous Plant Research

Project Number: 2080-32630-012-06-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jun 1, 2013
End Date: Mar 31, 2017

The Channel Scablands of eastern Washington State is an 800 square mile area like none other in the world, with geological, historical, aesthetic and economic significance. This Mars-like landscape, created by catastrophic floods 12,000 to 20,000 years ago, has important economic significance to the western U.S. for cattle grazing, wildlife survival, hunting, and tourism. The grazing lands in this region have been degraded from overgazing and exacerbated by frequent wildfires and subsequent invasion of annual grasses (cheatgrass and medusahead rye) and undesirable forbs (fiddleneck, rush skeletonweed, mustards, hairy vetch, etc). The intent of this project is multifaceted: 1) demonstrate that improved grass species, select native species and beneficial forbs can be established on this harsh scabland landscape; 2) evaluate the ability of these species to compete with the invasive annual grasses and forbs; 3) improve forage quality to enhance livestock and wildlife grazing; and 4) improve forage quality for cow-calf producers to reduce the economic impact of lupine-induced "crooked calf disease". This will be accomplished through a series of studies including replicated plots on 5 ranches to determine which grass and forb species are best suited for the region. These plots will be established on ranches across a 40 mile transect of the scablands to take advantage of different rangeland conditions, environmental factors and variations in microclimates. The grass species selected include 3 improved varieties (Hycrest II, Vavilov II and Bozoiski II); 4 natives ("Sherman" Big Bluegrass; "Recovery" Western Wheatgrass; "Secar" Snake River Wheatgrass; and "Bannock" Thickspike Wheatgrass) and 3 forage Kochia varieties including "Immigrant", "Sahro" and "Otovny"). Grass and forbs species will be selected from the replicated plots and seeded into demonstration plots (1-2 acres) whereby producers, land managers and others can observe the research outcomes on a production scale.

Year 1 1. Select study sites. We will establish experimental seeding plots on five ranches selected across a 40 mile transect to evaluate different rangeland conditions, soil types, environmental factors and microclimates. 2. Prepare seeding plots. We will use limited herbicide treatments and two tillage applications to prepare replicated plots on the 5 selected individual ranches. Plots will be 10 feet wide by X 50 feet long divided into two tillage applications, a 25 foot disturbed (disked) section and a 25 foot undisturbed section. 3. Plant selected perennial grasses and forbs. Treatments will include control, Mixed Natives, Hycrest II, Vavilov II, Bozoisky II, Immigrant + Vavilov II, Otavny + Vavilov II and Sahro + Vavilov II replicated 4 times across both tillage applications. This will be repeated on each of 5 ranches. Germination data will be collected in the fall of year 1. Year 2 1. Evaluate germination and seedling establishment. Count germination responses, in each of the replicated plots and record data. In the late summer or early fall of year 2, clip plots to compare biomass and forage quality. 2. Analyze data from year 1 and 2 and prepare reports for distribution to producers, land managers and others. Depending on data outcome a stakeholder meeting may be held the fall or winter of year two or the following spring. Year 3 1. Evaluate plots and collect data. Plots will be evaluated using a quarter meter clipping frame to compare number of plants between treatment. Frames will be clipped to compare biomass and samples will be analyzed for forage quality. Data will be statistically evaluated comparing germination, persistence, biomass and forage quality using mixed model statistical procedures. 2. Prepare information bulletins for distribution to producers, land managers and others. 3. Analyzed data will be prepared and reported in a peer-reviewed publication and extension bulletins.

Last Modified: 2/23/2016
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