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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Reno, Nevada » Great Basin Rangelands Research » Research » Research Project #436340

Research Project: Seeding Technologies for Post-Fire Restoration

Location: Great Basin Rangelands Research

Project Number: 2060-22000-025-008-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Apr 1, 2019
End Date: Dec 31, 2023

North America’s sagebrush biome is declining at an alarming rate due to exotic annual grasses promoting large-scale catastrophic wildfires, which not only burn the degraded areas where the fires initiate but spread into native plant communities, which creates more disturbed areas for exotic annual grasses to colonize. Effective methods for seeding native vegetation back into degraded sagebrush systems is needed to prevent weed invasion and arrest this invasive plant-fire cycle. Unfortunately, success rates for reestablishing native plants from seed in disturbed sagebrush systems is less than desirable, and seeding success is predicted to further decline with climate change increasing aridity and more erratic precipitation. To sustain the ecological integrity and economic vitality of the sagebrush biome it is of upmost importance that new technologies be developed that can improve arid land seeding success.

We are developing seed enhancement technologies that are designed to address limiting factors impairing rangeland seeding success. These technologies are currently being evaluated on sites across the Great Basin. The 2018 Martin Fire, which burned almost a half a million acres, is an example of a devastating mega-fire in the sagebrush biome. The Martin Fire occurrence provides an opportunity to evaluate our seed enhancement technologies within a region that is prone to wildfires and is in need of restoration. We are seeking funding to provide resources so we can conduct seeding trials within the boundaries of the Martin Fire. The goal of this research will be to evaluate the potential for seed coating technologies to overcome three major limitations impairing restoration success in the sagebrush biome: 1) pathogenic fungal attack, 2)suboptimal germination timing, and 3) lack of soil moisture resources to sustain established seedlings. Study species in the project will include bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), and Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis). Due to their unique physiological characteristics, separate studies will be implemented for each of these species with one major study for bluebunch wheatgrass, and four separate studies for Wyoming big sagebrush.