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ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Natural Resource Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #262526

Title: Modifying the USDA-NRCS pasture condition score system to include weighted indicators

item Sanderson, Matt

Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/2/2011
Publication Date: 2/5/2011
Citation: Sanderson, M.A. 2011. Modifying the USDA-NRCS pasture condition score system to include weighted indicators. Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts. CD-ROM.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The Pasture Condition Score (PCS) system, developed by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, is a monitoring and assessment tool for pastureland enrolled in conservation programs. Ten indicators of vegetation and soils status are rated on a 1 to 5 scale and summed to give an aggregate score, which is interpreted for management recommendations. The PCS system is used in rating pastures for NRCS cost-share programs (e.g., CSP, EQIP). The original version of the PCS system has been modified in several states to address specific variations in vegetation and soils. One common modification of the original PCS system has been to assign weights to the individual indicators to emphasize or de-emphasize particular attributes in specific regions of the U.S. We used an existing data set on pasture condition scores to compare the effects of different weighting systems on the aggregate scores and their distributions. Five regional weighting systems (California central valley, irrigated areas and Southeast U.S., Northwest U.S., Midwest U.S., and Northeast U.S.) were used to compute aggregate pasture condition scores from a data set of > 1200 observations of pasture condition indicators measured on five farms. Distributions of pasture condition scores from the five systems were compared with those obtained from using the original system. The various weighting methods tended to shift aggregate PCS scores higher compared with nonweighted scores. In all modifications of the original PCS system, plant vigor was the most heavily weighted indicator, whereas plant residue was the least weighted.