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ARS Home » Plains Area » Woodward, Oklahoma » Rangeland and Pasture Research » Research » Research Project #436498

Research Project: Sustaining Southern Plains Landscapes through Improved Plant Genetics and Sound Forage-Livestock Production Systems

Location: Rangeland and Pasture Research

Project Number: 3074-21630-012-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: May 22, 2019
End Date: May 21, 2024

Objective:
The vision of this research is to increase the ecological and economic sustainability of forage based livestock production systems associated with the Southern Plains mixed grass prairie. Our strategy is to minimize environmental impacts and increase the efficiency of plant and animal resources while addressing the production and conservation goals for mixed grass prairie. Over the next 5 years, we will focus on these following objectives: Objective 1: Improve native and introduced warm-season grass establishment and resilience to biotic and abiotic stressors. Subobjective 1A: Evaluate 21 germplasm lines of little bluestem for establishment and adaptation at 3 sites. Subobjective 1B: Select and breed Sudan grass with reduced ability to accumulate excess nitrate from the soil with a goal of releasing a new cultivar for use in the southern Great Plains. Objective 2: Evaluate the potential for using patch-burning and weather assessment tools on rangelands to improve the productivity of stocker cattle, while enhancing other ecological services. Subobjective 2A: Evaluate the potential for using patch-burning on rangelands to improve the productivity of stocker cattle while enhancing other ecological services. Subobjective 2B: Contribute and utilize weather and climate tool applications through the Long-term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) Climate Group for national and regional LTAR agricultural and natural resource modeling programs in grazing management, ecosystem monitoring and remote sensing, soil productivity, hydrology and erosion and evaluate, develop and implement landscape-scale applications for weather and climate related rangeland planning and management needs. Objective 3: Determine the effects of weather, timing, and the amount of nitrogen (N) fertilization applied to forage grasses either through inorganic or organic N sources and their effect on ecological services. Subobjective 3A: Determine the effects of the amount and timing of N fertilizer application on dormant season harvested switchgrass biomass production and changes in soil organic carbon stocks. Subobjective 3B: Determine the utility value of underseeding red clover as an N fixer for winter-wheat pasture production to replace inorganic N from fertilizer. Objective 4: Determine genetic, annual and seasonal effects on methane emission by grazing stocker cattle. Subobjective 4A: Evaluation of new technologies in indirect calorimetry for grazing beef cattle. Subobjective 4B: Gas flux by calves from dams identified as either high or low methane emitters.

Approach:
The research described herein provides essential knowledge to enhance the production and conservation goals for Southern Plains agroecosystems. The Southern Plains mixed-grass prairie is one of the United States' most important crop and livestock-producing regions that supports many rural communities and provides habitat for a host of plants and animals. The region’s agricultural enterprises are challenged with uncertainties in profitability, reliance on unsustainable land use practices, and an ever-increasing concern for the environment. Specifically, this project will 1) improve native and introduced warm-season grass establishment and resilience to biotic and abiotic stressors, 2) evaluate the potential for using patch-burning and weather assessment tools on rangelands to improve the productivity of stocker cattle, while enhancing other ecosystem services, 3) determine the effects of weather, timing, and the amount of nitrogen fertilization when applied to cool-season annual or warm-season perennial forage grasses either through inorganic or organic nitrogen sources and their effect on ecological services, and 4) determine genetic, seasonal and annual effects on methane emission by grazing stocker cattle. Experiments will concentrate on breeding and selecting new perennial forages and the effects of livestock grazing, prescribed fire, and soil disturbances on vegetation composition, diversity, production, and vegetation heterogeneity and animal body weight (BW) gains. Coordinated experimentation will leverage interdisciplinary work of 4 scientists to address integration of forage-livestock systems through new forages, use of patch burning and livestock grazing management to support sustainable and economically viable agricultural enterprises.