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Research Project: Towards Resilient Agricultural Systems to Enhance Water Availability, Quality, and Other Ecosystem Services under Changing Climate and Land Use

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Title: Managing tallgrass prairies for productivity and ecological function: a long term grazing experiment in the Southern Great Plains, USA

item STEINER, JEAN - Retired ARS Employee
item Starks, Patrick - Pat
item Neel, James
item Northup, Brian
item Turner, Kenneth - Ken
item Gowda, Prasanna
item COLEMAN, SAM - Retired ARS Employee
item BROWN, MICHAEL - Retired ARS Employee
item ZHOU, YUTING - Oklahoma State University
item Wagle, Pradeep
item Peterson-Munks, Brekke
item XIAO, XIANGMING - University Of Oklahoma

Submitted to: American Geophysical Union
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/2/2019
Publication Date: 12/11/2019
Citation: Steiner, J.L., Starks, P.J., Neel, J.P., Northup, B.K., Turner, K.E., Gowda, P.H., Coleman, S., Brown, M., Zhou, Y., Wagle, P., Peterson-Munks, B.L., Xiao, X. 2019. Managing tallgrass prairies for productivity and ecological function: a long term grazing experiment in the Southern Great Plains, USA [abstract]. American Geophysical Union. Available at:

Interpretive Summary: Abstract

Technical Abstract: The Southern Great Plains of the USA is one of largest expanses of prairie ecosystems in the world. These prairies have been predominantly converted to other land uses; however, the remaining prairie ecosystems are important for ruminant livestock grazing, providing carbon regulation, hydrologic function, and habitat for avian, terrestrial, and aquatic species. Ranch managers who focus on the broad spectrum of ecosystem services should consider resilience of their systems across a wide range of climate variability over long time-scales. While producers, land management agencies, and some researchers have promoted use of rotational stocking for increased livestock production efficiency and enhanced ecosystem function, scientific literature has not provided a consensus on whether rotational stocking results in increased plant biomass, animal productivity, or other ecosystem services over that of grazing management using continuous stocking. In 2009, we established a long-term grazing experiment within an adaptive management framework to encompass a wide range of production and ecological interactions on native grassland pastures at the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Grazinglands Research Laboratory, El Reno, Oklahoma. The goal of this on-going long-term study is to evaluate productivity and ecological effects of beef cow-calf management in native tallgrass prairie under continuous and rotational stocking systems representative of the Southern Great Plains. Ground-truth data from this study supports a variety of remote-sensing and model-based assessments. Findings from 2009-2015 indicate that plant biomass and animal productivity were similar in the two grazing management systems. There were some indicators that forage nutritive value and soil nutrient content were enhanced in the rotational stocking system compared to the continuous stocking system, though differences were small. The findings prepare us to engage with producers as we determine the focus for the next phase of the research.