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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Research Project #445307

Research Project: Development of a Tool to Support Emergency Haying and Grazing Decisions on CRP lands

Location: Range Management Research

Project Number: 3050-21600-001-001-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: Sep 15, 2023
End Date: Sep 30, 2026

The overall goal of the project is to automatically aggregate data from the USDM and other forage indicators in a spatially explicit platform (to be co-produced with FSA) that will allow retrieval of weekly or biweekly information about forage biomass condition at the scale of CRP parcels or counties. The platform will have the ability to provide detailed reports that combine remotely sensed forage estimates, USDM drought designation, forage forecasts (where available) for an area of interest at bi-weekly intervals. This decision support tool could help FSA analysts standardize drought emergency designation protocols across county lines.

Currently, Farm Service Agency staff develop maps and lists of counties eligible for emergency grazing or haying when severe drought, D2 level, is reached on the United States Drought Monitor (USDM) or where forage losses are estimated at 40% or more. Consistency in the protocols for designating forage losses in different counties could be greatly improved with remotely sensed forage biomass estimates. Tools such as the Rangeland Production Monitoring Service (RPMS) or the Rangeland Analysis Platform (RAP) use remotely sensed data to provide current forage biomass estimates and comparisons of current vs. historical forage levels at spatial scales that range from individual grazing pastures to entire regions. Other tools such as GrassCast or FuelCast provide short-term forage biomass forecasts for many areas of the Plains and Western states. We propose to aggregate data from available tools for each county across the U.S. and develop automated reports that offer detailed forage information. Furthermore, RAP and RPMS have the capability to assess forage condition of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) parcels since the data are offered at 30 m spatial resolution. A tool of this kind could help FSA conservationists identify where the 40% losses have occurred in the current and past seasons and where expectations for future growth are poor (note that forecast tools have lower resolution and limited geographic coverage). This information could be coupled with the D2 designations to offer more data informed emergency management decisions.