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ARS Home » Plains Area » Sidney, Montana » Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory » Pest Management Research » Research » Research Project #433421

Research Project: Identify Factors Associated with Increase Establishment and Persistence of Grasses, Legumes, and Forbs on Conservation Reserve Program Land

Location: Pest Management Research

Project Number: 3032-21220-003-002-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: Aug 4, 2017
End Date: Aug 3, 2023

The objective of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a cost-share program between farmers/ranchers and the U.S. Government, is to reduce soil erosion, enhance water quality, and improve wildlife habitat by converting marginal or vulnerable cropland to perennial vegetative cover. Because much of the land enrolled is dryland cropland that can experience drought and high temperatures, many CRP plantings are unsuccessful, resulting in large tracts of land open to the invasion of weeds often with little to no ground cover. Lack of establishment success undercuts the conservation objectives of the program and increases costs as multiple establishment attempts are made. During the winter of 2016, FSA approached ARS rangeland scientists about the possibility of establishing experimental plots in relevant regions, specifically the northern Great Plains (NPA) Southern Plains (SP), and the Great Basin (GB). The overall purpose of the proposed research is to increase establishment success and maintenance of native grasses, legumes, and forbs on CRP-enrolled fields by studying the plants, soil, and plant-soil interactions at experimental plots (sites) across a diversity of landscapes. Not only will this project increase the cost-effectiveness of the program in the short term, but it will enhance the ability of landowners to respond to a hotter and dryer future climate.

In the Northern Great Plains (NGP), the experiment will be conducted at three sites. Each site will have a single replication of each of four treatments (1 acre each) in a randomized complete block (blocks = planting years) design, with the exception of the Havre site where only treatments 1 and 4 will be planted in the blocks. Blocks will be randomly assigned to different planting years (2017 or 2018) to evaluate the influence of weather variability on seeding establishment and plant persistence. Each treatment will be replicated once per site: Treatment 1) Standard seed mix (3 forb species, 4 grass species); Treatment 2) Standard seed mix with green manure treatment (peas and barley planted in spring); Treatment 3) Standard with grass and forbs planted in alternate rows with green manure treatment; Treatment 4) Alternate seed mix (9 forb species, 8 grass species), alternate row planting with green manure treatment. Measurements during growing season: Vegetative cover - seedling density and frequency of target species establishment, plant cover, weeds, basal cover, and basal and canopy gaps (10 randomly located plots per experimental unit); Monthly pollinator sweeps per experimental unit with a minimum of three visits per year. Floral resources recorded at ten randomly sited quadrats. Samples will be frozen and sent to ARS entomologists for species identification. Soil analysis - soil texture, soil bulk density, and soil chemistry will be resampled in year 5.