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ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory » Research » Research Project #439651

Research Project: Improved Establishment Techniques for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Pollinator Mixtures in Semi-Arid regions of the western US

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

Project Number: 3064-21600-001-002-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2021
End Date: Aug 31, 2026

The first objective is to use failed CRP plots to evaluate the potential of different field preparation and seeding rate treatments to reduce weed competition in CRP stands in 3 different states in the western US. A second objective is to test specific treatments to help address region specific problems in CRP establishment. 1. Develop field preparation strategies to improve stand establishment for Conservation Reserve Program Pollinator mixtures. 2. Evaluate the impact of seeding rate and strategies on establishment of Conservation Reserve Program Pollinator mixtures.

There has been growing concern about the status and trends of pollinators in the US. Conservation Research Program (CRP) seedings, particularly seedings focused on legume/forb-rich plantings, can improve the quantity and quality of pollinator habitat. However, establishing these legume/forb-rich CRP plantings in arid and semi-arid regions is difficult and frequently fail to meet the program objectives. Therefore, understanding mechanisms that enhance the success of CRP seedings in dry areas would also help to improve the status and trends of pollinators. The USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is tasked with doing long-term regionally and nationally important research and as such has multiple research locations, including in arid and semi-arid areas. Four of these ARS research locations (Mandan, ND; Sidney, MT; Fort Collins, CO and Logan, UT) have been coordinating research on how to establish pollinator-friendly seed mixes on CRP land, in collaboration with and with funding from the USDA-Farm Service Agency (FSA). These locations established research plots using regionally recommended species and seeding strategies ranging from standard recommended approaches (BAU) to innovative strategies designed to maximize pollinator-friendly plant numbers (ASP) and reduce weed density. However, although the ASP treatments showed some promise, establishment success was still limited. We propose to use these failed seedings already existing research plots, where we have detailed knowledge of recent management history, to further investigate aspects of stand establishment and plant persistence. We would focus on 3 main areas; 1) Field Preparation, 2) Seeding Rate, and 3) a region-specific treatment. The Field Preparation treatments will include 1) a chem-fallow treatment, which would use chemicals to reduce weed seed bank during a fallow period prior to seeding, 2) a cover crop treatment , which would use a regionally appropriate cover crop prior to seeding and the CRP treatments would be directly seeded into the cover crop biomass and 3) a control. Seeding Rates treatments would consist of 1) a standard seeding rate and 2) an enhanced competition seeding rate where seeding rates would be increased in species that can provide the best competition for weeds. The region-specific treatments will be treatments that would be of interest to and appropriate to the specific region (CO, MT and UT). For example, in MT, this would focus on planting date but in UT, it may focus on herbicide use. Finally, each of these treatments would be replicated within each site in each region (CO, MT and UT) to enhance statistical power. The research funds would primarily be used to hire additional personnel for the project locations. In addition, some funds would go to seeding, travel and supplies.