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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Research Project #441846

Research Project: Techniques for Enhancing Pollinator CRP Plantings in Arid and Semi-arid Regions: John Wright Agreement

Location: Rangeland Resources & Systems Research

Project Number: 3012-21500-001-012-N
Project Type: Non-Funded Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: May 1, 2022
End Date: Oct 1, 2026

There has been growing concern about the status and trends of pollinators in the US. Conservation Research Program (CRP) plantings, particularly those using legume/forb-rich plant materials that can improve the quantity and quality of pollinator habitat. The objective of this cooperative research project is to identify best practices for improving the success of pollinator plantings within the CRP program. Specific objectives: 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.

Establishing legume/forb-rich CRP plantings in arid and semi-arid regions is difficult and plantings 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 received new funding from the FSA (Agreement # 60-3064-1-002) use these failed seedings as 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 two-year weed control treatment, which would use chemicals to reduce the weed seed bank for two full growing seasons prior to seeding, with roundup-ready corn or similar crop used to provide cover and limit erosion during this time, and 2) a traditional cover crop treatment, which would use a regionally appropriate cover crop (e.g. sorghum) for one season prior to seeding and the CRP treatments would be directly seeded into the cover crop biomass. Seeding Rates treatments would consist of 1) a standard seeding rate, 2) an enhanced competition seeding rate where seeding rates would be increased in species that can provide the best competition for weeds and 3) a doubled seeding rate treatment to evaluate whether it is seeding rate or seed mixture composition driving potential reductions in weed competition. The Field Preparation and Seeding Rate treatments would be implemented as a split-plot design with Field Preparation as the main plot factor and Seeding Rate as the sub-plot factor. 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, while in UT, it would evaluate potential herbicides and in CO, it would focus on the use of added carbon to control weeds. The statistical design of the region-specific treatments will be left to each group. Finally, all treatments would be replicated within each site in each region (CO, MT and UT) to enhance statistical power.