Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Forage and Range Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #320586

Research Project: Develop Improved Plant Genetic Resources to Enhance Pasture and Rangeland Productivity in the Semiarid Regions of the Western U.S.

Location: Forage and Range Research

Title: Forage kochia and Russian wildrye potential for rehabilitating Gardner's saltbush ecosystems degraded by halogeton

Author
item Smith, Rob
item Waldron, Blair
item CREECH, J - Utah State University
item ZOBELL, R - Forest Service (FS)
item ZOBELL, DALE - Utah State University

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/10/2016
Publication Date: 9/5/2016
Citation: Smith, R.C., Waldron, B.L., Creech, J.E., Zobell, R.A., Zobell, D.R. 2016. Forage kochia and Russian wildrye potential for rehabilitating Gardner's saltbush ecosystems degraded by halogeton. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 69:390-398.

Interpretive Summary: Gardner saltbush ecosystems are increasingly being invaded by haolgeton, an annual salt-loving plant that increases soil surface salinity by "pumping" salt from the root zone up into the plant tissues. This reduces plant biodiversity as other plants cannot germinate or persist in the higher salt environment. This study was established in the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area near Manilla, UT, to evaluate the ability of forage kochia, Russian wildrye, tall wheatgrass, Indian ricegrass, and Gardner saltbush to establish and compete in haologeton-dominated rangelands that once grew Gardner saltbush. A dormant seedling, with and without prior disking, was conducted to determine the ability to establish. A transplant evaluation was used to determine the competitive ability of fully established plants by measuring halogeton densities at four 10 cm intervals (10-20, 20-30, 30-40, and 40-50 cm) distal from transplants. Gardner saltbush, tall wheatgrass, and Indian ricegrass either did not establish or persist beyond the first year in either study. Conversely, Russian wildrye and forage kochia established and persisted, with Russian wildrye establishment higher in the disked treatment compared to no-till (4.5 and 1.7 plants m-2, respectively) and no-till favoring forage kochia establishment (2.0 and 0.8 plants m-2, respectively). Spaced-plants of these two species reduced halogeton by 52% relative to the control. Moreover, the competitive ability of Russian wildrye and forage kochia had extended to the full 50 cm region surrounding the transplants by the second year of the study. Transplant survival and halogeton frequency were highly correlated, indicating the importance of persistence. Results indicate that Russian wildrye and forage kochia can establish and compete with halogeton, thereby providing an opportunity for reclamation of halogeton-invaded areas. Conversely, direct restoration to Gardner saltbush and Indian ricegrass does not appear likely.

Technical Abstract: Gardner saltbush ecosystems are increasingly being invaded by halogeton [Halogeton glomeratus (M. Bieb.) C.A. Mey.], an annual halophyte that increases soil surface salinity and reduces plant biodiversity. This study was established in the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area near Manilla, UT, to evaluate the ability of forage kochia [Bassia prostrata (L.) A.J. Scott], Russian wildrye [Psathyrostachys juncea (Fisch.) Nevski], tall wheatgrass [Thinopyrum ponticum (Podp.) Z.-W. Liu & R.-C. Wang], Indian ricegrass [Achnatherum hymenoides (Roem. & Schult.) Barkworth], and Gardner saltbush [Atriplex garneri )Moq.) D. Dietr.] to establish and complete in halogeton-dominated Gardner saltbush ecosystems. A dormant seeding evaluation, with and without prior disking, was conducted to determine the ability to establish. A spaced-plant evaluation was used to determine the competitive ability of fully established plants by measuring halogeton densities at four 10 cm intervals (10-20, 20-30, 30-40, and 40-50 cm) distal from transplants. Gardner saltbush, tall wheatgrass, and Indian ricegrass either did not estabish or persist beyond the first year in either study. Conversely, Russian wildrye and forage kochia established and persisted, with Russian wildrye establishment higher (P<0.05) in the disked treatment compared to no-till (4.5 and 1.7 plants m-2, respectively) and no-till favoring (P<0.05) forage kochia establishmeent (2.0 and 0.8 plants m-2, respectively). Spaced-plants of these two species reduced halogeton by 52% relative to the control. Moreover, the competitive ability of Russian wildrye and forage kochia had extended to 50 cm distal from transplant by the second year of the study. Transplant survival and halogeton frequency were highly correlated (r=-0.67, P=0.0001), indicating the importance of persistence. Results indicate that Russian wildrye and forage kochia can establish and compete with halogeton, thereby providing an opportunity for reclamation of halogeton-invaded areas. Conversely, direct restoration to Gardner saltbush and Indian ricegrass does not appear likely.