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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #383764

Research Project: Science and Technologies for the Sustainable Management of Western Rangeland Systems

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Long-term declining trends in Chihuahuan Desert forage production in relation to stocking rates and climate

item MCINTOSH, M - New Mexico State University
item HOLECHECK, J - New Mexico State University
item CIBILS, A - New Mexico State University
item Estell, Richard - Rick
item Spiegal, Sheri

Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/1/2021
Publication Date: 2/15/2021
Citation: McIntosh, M.M., Holecheck, J.L., Cibils, A.F., Estell, R.E., Spiegal, S.A. 2021. Long-term declining trends in Chihuahuan Desert forage production in relation to stocking rates and climate {abstract}. Society for Range Management Meeting, February 15-17, 2021, virtual. 13.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: We analyzed a 25-yr time series (1995 – 2019) of stocking rate (SR), ambient temperature, precipitation, and perennial grass production (PGP) at a 4000-ha site in the Chihuahuan Desert. Using the Proc Glimmix procedure in SAS 9.4, we analyzed effects of two SRs (light: 25-30% vs conservative: 31-40% forage use rate), year, and SR × year to evaluate time trends. Stocking rates had no effect on PGP (P = 0.25), but year did (P < 0.01). Stocking rate × year did not affect PGP (P = 0.94). We found a 75% reduction in in kg * ha-1 PGP when the first (115.4 ± 18.7 kg DM perennial grass) vs last three (28.27 ± 18.67 kg DM perennial grass) study years periods were compared (P < 0.01). Annual average ambient temperature during the 25-y study increased by more than 1°C (beginning: 15.22 ± 0.2 vs end: 16.7 ± 0.2°C). Mean maximum June temperature (P < 0.01; r = - 0.39) was negatively associated with PGP. Conversely, PGP was positively associated with total annual precipitation (P < 0.01; r = 0.28). The interaction of June mean maximum temperature and annual precipitation negatively affected PGP (P < 0.01). These preliminary results suggest that climate may have an overriding effect on Chihuahuan Desert forage production even when appropriate stocking rates are applied. Sustainability of beef production systems on southwest rangeland will increasingly be hampered by forage yields less than 100 lb*ac-1; the point at which point livestock grazing becomes financially unsound.