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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Reno, Nevada » Great Basin Rangelands Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #389783

Research Project: Management and Restoration of Rangeland Ecosystems

Location: Great Basin Rangelands Research

Title: Improving great basin wildrye communities: the advantage of using the lawson aerator

item Clements, Darin - Charlie
item Harmon, Daniel - Dan

Submitted to: Society for Range Management
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/5/2022
Publication Date: 2/22/2022
Citation: Clements, D.D., Harmon, D.N. 2022. Improving great basin wildrye communities: the advantage of using the lawson aerator. Society for Range Management. 75:90.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Heavy duty implements designed and built for manipulating rangeland vegetation and soils have been around for many decades. In the 1950’s, the early developments of Rangeland drills resulted in the effective seeding of hundreds of thousands of acres of deteriorated rangelands to perennial grasses in an effort to curb erosion and increase the forage base for livestock and reduce the spread of the noxious weeds. The Lawson Aerator is one of the newer implements to enter the scene for rangeland improvements. The Lawson Aerator, designed as a pasture renovator in southern states that were being invaded by woody species, has earned a solid reputation and since found its way West. The aerator has significant weight distributed over 2 tandem drums that are typically 12’ x 3’ diameter. The drums display angled, protruding and spaced 8” x 4” x 1” steel plates with sharpened ends for effective chopping of woody material and penetration into soils for aeration. The variable pitch between the bladed drums can be adjusted to reduce or increase the impact to vegetation. Here we report on the use of the Lawson Aerator in a degraded Great Basin Wildrye community that had significantly reduced in grazing capacity as decadent big sagebrush and greasewood shrubs dominated the community. In the fall and early winter of 2020/2021, we initiated the mechanical treatment of 900 acres using the Lawson Aerator to improve herbaceous density and forage. Plots were set up to measure in a cardinal direction the impact/benefit of manipulating this degraded habitat to re-invigorate the Great Basin Wildrye community. Using the Lawson Aerator to vegetatively manipulate this habit resulted in an increase of 690% in density and 1,180% increase in forage. Managers should take a closer look at using this implement to improve degraded shrub habitats and improve herbaceous species composition.