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ARS Home » Plains Area » El Reno, Oklahoma » Oklahoma and Central Plains Agricultural Research Center » Livestock, Forage and Pasture Management Research Unit » Research » Research Project #445628

Research Project: Integrated Research to Enhance Forage and Food Production from Southern Great Plains Agroecosystems

Location: Livestock, Forage and Pasture Management Research Unit

Project Number: 3070-21500-001-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Dec 11, 2023
End Date: Dec 10, 2028

Objective 1: Develop novel genotypes for forage and turf with improved responses to climate and management. Sub-Objective 1.A. Improving the seed characteristics of native bluegrasses (Poa) with interspecific hybrids; Sub-Objective 1B. Developing mutants of native lovegrasses (Eragrostis) with improved biomass production; Sub-Objective 1.C. Develop and evaluate sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) as a substitute for Old World bluestems in the Southern Great Plains. Objective 2: Improve efficiencies in forage and crop production at the soil-plant interface. Sub-Objective 2.A. Evaluate intensive crop rotations applied to winter wheat; improving productivity, water, and nitrogen use efficiencies; Sub-Objective 2.B. Test methods of N application for managing switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) as a cellulosic feedstock; Sub-Objective 2.C. Identify soil amendments that improve the resiliency of cropping systems; Sub-Objective 2.D. Testing forage guar (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba) as a hay crop for the more arid regions of the SGP; Sub-Objective 2.E. Understand how the biomass of novel grasses and legumes functions in the rumen environment. Objective 3: Enhance ecological function of crop-pasture rotations to increase resilience of production systems. Sub-Objective 3.A. Defining the function of hay, pasture, and crop agroecosystems with a comprehensive multi-scale observatory; Sub-Objective 3.B. Develop technologies to indirectly measure intake of metabolizable energy in grazing beef cattle; Sub-Objective 3C. Measure gas fluxes of calves from high and low methane emitting cows to understand if energy metabolism by calves is predictive of their offspring. Objective 4: Enhance function of rangeland and prairie ecosystems for more resilient productivity. Sub-Objective 4.A. Improving the utilization of little bluestem by cattle with mowing instead of prescribed burns; Sub-Objective 4B. Understand how compound agroecosystems comprised of different pasture types respond to grazing and management.

Production by Southern Great Plains (SGP) agroecosystems is impacted by limited supplies of water, soil fertility, variable climates, and environmental degradation that threatens the economic viability and sustainability of agriculture. This project will develop management practices and identify crop and forage genotypes that are resilient under climate variability, increase forage production and improve resource use-efficiency. Increased production from native prairie, tame pastures, and croplands will be achieved through use of practices that enhance ecological condition of grazing lands and minimize on-farm and downstream environmental damage. Decision-support tools will assist producers in using management practices that optimize efficiencies under variable climatic conditions. Improved efficiencies will reduce costs of production and contribute to sustainability of forage-based livestock production. Enhancing the on-farm capacity for forage production is important. Forage can substitute for feed resources lost to competing enterprises like feedlots and bioenergy. Applying improved management practices to forage-based livestock production can enhance ecological function of prairies and pastureland, increase resilience of production systems, improve food security, add value to farming and ranching operations, and mitigate greenhouse gasses. The end-result is improved efficiencies of beef production with lower inputs of grain and fossil fuels, lower use of capital by exploiting on-farm products, and improved competitiveness and profitability for producers. To accomplish this goal, understanding interactions at the soil-plant-animal-atmosphere interface of agroecosystems is required to match inputs to desired outputs of commodities and ecological benefits. The project includes a diverse set of activities across a range of subjects, from the genome of individual plants to pasture-scale responses of agroecosystems and regional-scale modelling.