Better breed of plants may help revive rugged western rangelands in US

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Washington, Feb 14 (ANI): In a long term study, scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have been developing a better breed of grasses and forages that could help revive the rugged rangelands of the western United States.

As a result of that work, the scientists have released many improved plant varieties that help restore vegetation communities struggling for survival in the face of extreme weather conditions, wildfires, soil erosion, invasive plant species and other challenges.

Research leader Jack Staub and other scientists at the ARS Forage and Range Research Laboratory (FRRL) in Logan, Utah, use genetic material from both native and introduced plant sources in their breeding work.

In some cases, they begin restoration efforts with introduced grasses and then follow up with the use of native plants as soil conditions improve.

In 1984, FRRL scientists partnered in the development of Hycrest crested wheatgrass, which became the leading crested wheatgrass grown on the western rangelands for approximately 10 years.It provides forage in the early spring and summer, stabilizes the soil, holds its own against aggressive invasive grasses and thrives in as little as 8 inches of annual precipitation.

Building on this success, FRRL scientists have now developed Hycrest II, which was bred for reseeding rangelands that have been overrun by annual weeds after wildfires, soil erosion and other disturbances.t offers improved establishment and exceeds Hycrest in seedlings established per acre.

Vavilov II, a Siberian wheatgrass cultivar that can help hold invasive cheatgrass at bay on especially dry and harsh sandy rangelands, was also created at the FRRL.

As competition for water supplies increases, FRRL scientists are also developing pasture and turfgrasses better adapted to reduced irrigation. (ANI)

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