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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Reno, Nevada » Great Basin Rangelands Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #395167

Research Project: Management and Restoration of Rangeland Ecosystems

Location: Great Basin Rangelands Research

Title: Mechanical treatment of degraded shrub communities to improve grazing resources

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

Submitted to: The Progressive Rancher
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/27/2022
Publication Date: 7/15/2022
Citation: Clements, D.D., Harmon, D.N. 2022. Mechanical treatment of degraded shrub communities to improve grazing resources. The Progressive Rancher. 22(6):2-14.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Grazing resources are often limited due to older more decadent shrub communities that use up valuable and limited resources at the expense of perennial herbaceous species that provide sustainable grazing resources. Traditional range improvement practices that include mechanical and chemical control of old, decadent, dense stands of shrubs can be beneficial in improving stand densities of perennial herbaceous species. Heavy duty implements designed and built for manipulating rangeland vegetation and soils have been around for many decades. In the 1950’s, the early development of the Rangeland Drill resulted in the effective seeding of hundreds of thousands of acres of big sagebrush rangelands to increase perennial grasses in an effort to curb erosion, reduce the spread of the noxious weed Halogeton and increase the forage base for the livestock industry. Rangeland plows, dixie harrows, chaining, brush hogs as well as other pieces of equipment have played an important role in brush control efforts in rangeland improvement efforts. The Lawson Aerator is one of the newer implements to enter the scene of rangeland improvement projects. Although the Lawson Aerator was originally designed as a pasture renovator in southern states to combat woody species invasion, this implement became more popular in brush control in western states. The two research sites described in this paper both experienced different outcomes, from no success to exceptional success. The second site experienced > 1,000% increase in forage production while the first site recorded less than 10%. Using the Lawson Aerator as a mechanical vegetation manipulation tool has the ability to significantly increase sustainable grazing resources, while at the same time improve edge affect and wildlife use, including mule deer, pronghorn antelope and Hungarian partridge. When there is evidence that perennial grasses are present, such as Great Basin wildrye, it can be very beneficial to manipulate the shrub community and release remnant vegetation and improve stand vigor, grazing resources, and wildlife habitat. Land owners and resource managers should take a closer look at using this implement to improve degraded shrub habitats and improve herbaceous species composition.