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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Burns, Oregon » Range and Meadow Forage Management Research » Research » Research Project #435271

Research Project: Northern Great Basin Native Seed Production Cooperative

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

Project Number: 2070-22000-007-001-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 16, 2019
End Date: Sep 16, 2024

America is losing its rural agriculturally-based communities. Many issues plague small agriculturally based towns, counties and communities. Four of the most serious and fundamental issues for Harney County and the entire four state (California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon) region are: 1) Seriously diminished and diminishing water supply for agriculture and forage production, 2) Loss of livestock forage and wildlife habitat because of invasive species (including weeds and carp), 3) Frequent, large, and costly wildfires on millions of acres that destroy natural resources and the environment that require extensive restoration, and 4) Limited and diminishing economic opportunities our citizens and communities related to hardships occurring in cropping systems and for livestock producers depending on a sustainable natural resource base. In response, the High Desert Partnership (HDP) and the ARS has facilitated several collaborative groups working to identify solutions to address these fundamental issues of the rural western U.S. One solution identified from the working groups is to facilitate the development of a “Northern Great Basin Native Seed Production Cooperative”. As quality habitat continues to be destroyed by invasive annual grasses and frequent reoccurring burns, land restoration has become an essential part of repairing the structure, function and use of rangeland. As a direct result, the demand for native seeds is growing exponentially, primarily because the Federal Government requires native seeds to be used whenever and wherever possible in accordance with the National Native Seed Policy. Restoration is critical for the wildlife habitat needed and to enhance the natural resource base and the environment to sustain a competitive agricultural economy in the region. Genetically appropriate native seeds adapted and grown locally simply do not exist for southeastern Oregon and the northern Great Basin region. All of this can provide opportunities for producers to grow valuable crops using less groundwater than most current production systems. The primary objective is to create a self-sustaining business hub that fosters communication, cooperation, contracting, collection, production, storage and use of high-quality native seeds for large-scale land restoration, and advances a native seed-production industry that is economically sustainable and fosters the development of economically-viable reduced water-use agricultural production that helps achieve contemporary resource-use goals in the northern Great Basin. We have a unique opportunity to pull together a natural resource need and components of the rural economy to help increase economic opportunities and sustain rangeland livestock forage in Harney County and the Northern Great Basin. Agreement associated products in support of this objective include 1) a series of producer guides focused on seed production, harvest, cleaning, storing, and marketing, and 2) research products focussed on native seed propagation, soil management strategies, and weed and water management in native seed production systems.

The High Desert Partnership (HDP) will convene a large comprehensive working group including stakeholders from diverse backgrounds with various interests and expertise in producing, purchasing, and using native seeds for landscape scale restoration in the northern Great Basin. The working group will include any organization with a stake in restoration, revegetation, or mitigation with native plant species, including plant materials users, producers, and any other interested organization or individual. As a unit, called the Northern Great Basin Native Seed Production Cooperative, the group will design a self-perpetuating system the works together to achieve the collectives’ primary goals that they consider critical for long-term sustainable native seed production in the region. These goals are: Initial Producer Support: Reduce startup financial risks to producers; develop and provide technical assistance to producers; aid in contracting, marketing, and sales to help establish a self-supporting local industry; aid infrastructure development; coordinate with land management agencies to help develop and stabilize native seed demand and markets. Contracting – Buying & Selling: provide a forum for all contracting, especially Federal contracting and subsequent subcontracting with individual producers; promote risk-limiting measures; ensure native seed buyers and producers fully understand details of the contracts with respect to species, accessions, and timelines as a basis for planning; develop, review and approve production plans. Site Evaluation: assist Landowners in identifying appropriate and potential sites for native seed production and collection. Seed Collection: facilitate native seed collection and development of foundation seeds; track and monitor seed accessions and landraces; provide access to seed viability and dormancy testing. Seed Processing, Storage and Delivery: provide access to/service for seed cleaning, processing, and packaging; provide/foster state-of-the-art seed storage on a timeshare basis. Production Systems: provide state-of-the-art knowledge about site preparation, planting, weed management, growing, harvesting, and species-specific propagation techniques; monitor and provide oversight to meet production timelines. Equipment Sharing: acquire and offer specialized, often expensive, but essential, seed-production equipment on a timeshare basis. Consulting, Recommendations, Research, Reporting: provide educational and technical consulting services for growing native plants; test new propagation and plant growing strategies.