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ARS Home » Plains Area » El Reno, Oklahoma » Oklahoma and Central Plains Agricultural Research Center » Livestock, Forage and Pasture Management Research Unit » Research » Research Project #436466

Research Project: Integrated Agroecosystem Research to Enhance Forage and Food Production in the Southern Great Plains

Location: Livestock, Forage and Pasture Management Research Unit

2022 Annual Report

1. Evaluate plant through micro-patch scale responses of new and existing lines of forage species for enhanced climate resilience and positive responses to management. • Sub-objective 1.A: Evaluate frequency and level of dihaploid production in meadow fescue, creeping fescue, and Festuloliums. • Sub-objective 1.B: Generate and evaluate a perennial Lolium inducer line with the ability to produce dihaploids. • Sub-objective 1.C: Generate and evaluate apomictic, hexaploid F1 hybrid eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides) germplasm. 2. Define responses of patch-scale attributes at the soil-plant-animal interface to environment and management to improve nutrient-use and production efficiency in forages and animals. • Sub-objective 2.A: Define the longer-term capacity of annual cool- and warm-season legumes as sources of green nitrogen (N) for production of cool- and warm-season forages. • Sub-objective 2.B: Identify and evaluate forage resources for efficacy at critical times in the production cycle of farm-finished beef, and their relationships with frame score, calf growth rate, carcass quality, and economic returns. 3. Examine paddock-scale responses of the soil-plant-animal complex in response to applied management using multi-scale data to assess the potential of diverse ranges of forage and grain crops for function as multi-use crops. • Sub-objective 3.A: Measure responses, and model, novel warm-season annual pulses for their use in grazing and cropping agroecosystems of the SGP. • Sub-objective 3.B: Define carbon (C), N, and microbial fluxes in row crop, wheat-based, and native agroecosystems under different forms of management: green manures, fertilizer inputs, prescribed fire, and grazing. 4. Measure and model landscape-scale responses of soil-plant-animal-atmosphere complexes to identify improved and innovative management strategies that enhance ecological function of grazing lands and increase resilience of production systems. • Sub-Objective 4.A: Establish a network of integrated flux measurement systems (“GRL-FLUXNET”. • Sub-objective 4.B: Characterize the impacts of climate variability and management on different forages at local and regional scales in the SGP. • Sub-objective 4.C: Quantify dynamics of C and water (H2O) balances of native prairie, tame pastures and croplands in response to management practices and biophysical factors. • Sub-objective 4.D: Upscale paddock-level fluxes of C and H2O to regional scales using remote sensing approaches. • Sub-objective 4.E: Improve water management practices and water productivity by reducing non-productive water loss.

Limited and uncertain forage supply, increased climatic variability, and environmental degradation impact livestock and crop production systems in the Southern Great Plains (SGP) and threaten agroecosystem viability and sustainability. This project will develop management practices and identify crop and forage genotypes that are resilient under variable climate and will increase forage productivity and resource use-efficiency on mixed-agriculture farms across a range of scales. Increased forage productivity from native prairie and tame pasturelands will be achieved through use of practices that enhance ecological condition of grazing lands and minimize or reverse on-farm and downstream environmental damage. New decision-support tools will assist producers in timing and choice of management practices that maximize resource use efficiency under variable climatic conditions. Improved resource use efficiency will reduce unit cost of forage and crop production, and contribute to sustainability of forage-based livestock production. Enhancement of on-farm capacity for forage production is important because increased forage supplies can substitute for feed resources lost to competing enterprises such as grain crops and bioenergy production. Forage-based livestock production that uses improved management practices to enhance ecological function of prairie and pastureland will increase resilience of production systems, increase food security, add value to farming operations, and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The end-result will be improved efficiencies of beef production with less grain and fossil fuel inputs, less need for capital through increased use of on-farm products, and increased competitiveness and profitability for producers. To accomplish this goal, understanding interactions between different factors of the soil-plant-animal-atmosphere interface is required to match input resources to desired useful products and ecological benefits.

Progress Report
Milestones of the Objectives and Sub-objectives of the research project 3070-21610-003-00-D for fiscal year (FY) 22 have been met, though the effects of Covid-19 protocols hindered progress in all Sub-objectives. An ARS researcher at El Reno, Oklahoma, continued work in developing germplasms of different introduced and native grass species within Sub-objectives 1.A, 1.B, and 1.C. Within Sub-objective 1.A, selections for dihaploid (plants with two sets of chromosomes) recoveries from F1 crops of tall fescue seeds were undertaken with a cooperator and were successful in reaching the stage of developing potential tall fescue inducers. However, there is not enough time to complete the hybridizations required to prove if new inducers exist within the newly developed population. The project will be terminated in September 2022. A paper was published that defined a new technique for breeding and selecting tall fescues that can genetically stabilize the complex mineral characteristics of calcium, magnesium and potassium in tall fescue into a homozygous (plants with two identical alleles of particular genes) , dihaploid state. Within Sub-objective 1.B., perennial clones of Lolium (ryegrass) were transferred to a cooperator for hybridization with tall fescue & the determination of the presence of a dihaploid generation of plants. Projects undertaken with cooperator successfully reached the stage of developing potential perennial ryegrass inducers. However, there is not enough time to complete the hybridizations required to prove if new inducers exist in the population. The project will be terminated in September 2022. A paper was published defining the occurrence and detection of chimeral plants (containing tissues from at least 2 genetically distinct parents) sectors in leaf tissues of ryegrass-fescue hybrids. Within Sub-objective 1.C., performance testing of Tripsacum (eastern gamagrass) continued in replicated trials at El Reno and cooperator locations. The hexaploidy (6x) project did not result in a new approach to developing Tripsacum hybrids. However, large numbers of chimeral (plants containing tissues from at least 2 genetically distinct parents) plants were identified. The project with the cooperator was terminated in June 2022. Within Sub-objective 2.A, ARS researchers at El Reno, Oklahoma, in collaboration with researchers at Kansas State University, collected the third years’ data within the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded project ‘Increasing Water Productivity, Nutrient Use Efficiency, and Soil Health in Rainfed Agricultural Systems of Semi-Arid Southern Great Plains’ (2019-68012-29888). The capacity of different types of biochar to influence soil physical and chemical properties that are the subject of the study was produced. Within Sub-objective 2.B, ARS Researchers at El Reno, Oklahoma, continued assigning growing stocker cattle and heifers to different pastures of warm-season grasses as part of systems of finishing cattle, and collecting data on animal performance. Within Sub-objective 3.A which was completed in FY21, ARS researchers at El Reno, Oklahoma, in collaboration with researchers at Kansas State University reported on the flood tolerance of the novel legume tepary bean and described the potential range and effects of flooding on production if tepary bean were grown at commercial scales in the southern Great Plains. Within Sub-objective 3.B, ARS researchers at El Reno, Oklahoma, continued applying management systems involving annual prescribed spring burns and intensive early grazing to southern tallgrass prairie for the sixth year, and data collection were completed. Within Sub-objective 4.A: ARS researchers at El Reno, Oklahoma, in collaboration with university collaborators, continued collecting data related to fluxes in carbon, water, and energy at the soil-plant-animal-atmosphere interface of a range of agroecosystems with 16 Eddy covariance towers that are part of the “GRL-FLUXNET’ system. Data from pastures of winter wheat, alfalfa, native prairie, and other perennial and annual forage and grain crops within the network are being collected and compiled on a continuous, 12-month basis to develop a database. Researchers reported on: a biogeochemical model that provided improved simulations of microbial-mediated carbon dynamics in agricultural ecosystems; and the time-based dynamics that occur in bacterial communities along a disturbance gradient in a U.S. Southern Plains. Within Sub-objective 4.C, ARS researchers at El Reno, Oklahoma, in collaboration with university researchers defined carbon dioxide and water vapor fluxes from multi-purpose systems of cropping winter wheat used in the U.S. Southern Great Plains. Within Sub-objective 4.D, ARS researchers at El Reno, Oklahoma, in collaboration with university researchers continued collections of regional-scale data related to evapotranspiration (ET) and gross primary production (GPP). This data is used to develop maps of both ET and GPP for the prairie regions of the central U.S. Eddy fluxes from vegetation of tallgrass prairies in the U.S. Southern Plains during multiple dormant seasons (October through February), and vegetation phenology were analyzed and reported. Within Sub-objective 4.E, ARS researchers at El Reno, Oklahoma, in collaboration with university researchers continued efforts in separating the evaporation and transpiration components of evapotranspiration for a range of growing crops and agroecosystems. A primary focus of research was on water flux among the soil-plant-atmosphere interface of different cropping systems applied to winter wheat.


Review Publications
Deng, J., Frolking, S., Bajgain, R., Cornell, C., Wagle, P., Xiao, X., Zhou, J., Basara, J., Steiner, J.L., Changsheng, L. 2021. Improving a biogeochemical model to simulate microbial-mediated carbon dynamics in agricultural ecosystems. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems. 13. Article e2021MS002752.
Singh, H., Northup, B.K., Rice, C.W, Prasad, V. 2022. Biochar applications influence soil physical and chemical properties, microbial diversity, and crop productivity: a meta-analysis. Biochar. 4. Article 8.
Kindiger, B.K. 2021. Gamete selection for macro-nutrient selection of Ca, Mg and K in tall fescue. Journal of Horticulture. 8(6). Article 297.
Fortuna, A., Steiner, J.L., Moriasi, D.N., Northup, B.K., Starks, P.J. 2021. Linking geospatial information and effects of management to soil quality. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation.
Cornell, C., Zhang, Y., Ning, D., Wu, L., Wagle, P., Steiner, J., Xiao, X., Zhou, J. 2022. Temporal dynamics of bacterial communities along a gradient of disturbance in a U.S. Southern Plains agroecosystem. mSphere. 6. Article e01160-20.
Kindiger, B.K. 2021. Occurrence and detection of chimeral sectors in leaf tissue of novel Lolium multiflorum x L. arundinaceum hybrids. Journal of Horticulture. 8(7). Article 299.
Wagle, P., Kakani, V.G., Gowda, P.H., Xiao, X., Northup, B.K., Neel, J.P., Starks, P.J., Steiner, J.L., Gunter, S. 2022. Dormant season vegetation phenology and eddy fluxes in native tallgrass prairies of the U.S. Southern Plains. Remote Sensing. 14(11). Article 2620.
Witt, T.W., Flynn, K.C., Villavicencio, C., Northup, B.K. 2022. Flood tolerance and flood loss predictions for tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius A. Gray) across the United States Southern Great Plains. Agronomy Journal. 1-11.
Wagle, P., Gowda, P.H., Northup, B.K., Neel, J.P., Starks, P.J., Turner, K.E., Moriasi, D.N. 2021. Carbon dioxide and water vapor fluxes of multi-purpose winter wheat cropping systems in the U.S. Southern Great Plains. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 310:108631.