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Individual Highlight

New Seeding Techniques Restore Sagebrush Ecosystems Following Wildfire

Photo of Burned sagebrush sites can be seeded using rangeland drills to re-establish native perennial plants. Matthew Fisk, USDA Forest ServiceBurned sagebrush sites can be seeded using rangeland drills to re-establish native perennial plants. Matthew Fisk, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Sagebrush ecosystems of the Great Basin are being rapidly converted to annual grasslands dominated by invasive weeds such as cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.), which thrives following wildfire and competes with native plants. Restoring diverse plant communities containing perennial grasses, shrubs, and forbs is an important priority in this region. Forest Service scientists in Boise partnered with public and private agencies to evaluate the effectiveness of seeding techniques designed to re-establish native plants following fire.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Ott, Jeffrey E.  
Research Location : Great Basin (Nevada, western Utah, southern Idaho and southeastern Oregon)
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 702

Summary

Post-fire seeding is especially important in sagebrush ecosystems where grazing disturbance has often depleted native perennial plants while favoring invasive annuals such as cheatgrass. Although techniques for seeding non-native forage plants are well established, these techniques are not always effective for seeding the native plants that are increasingly sought by land management agencies. Innovative modifications of conventional seeding equipment and strategies have the potential to increase success when seeding mixtures of native species with different germination requirements. Newer models of rangeland drills, for example, are able to handle seeds of different sizes, planting larger seeds at precise depths in furrows and pressing smaller seeds onto the soil between furrow rows. Many newer drill models are minimum-till drills that have the potential to reduce soil disturbance compared to conventional models. Experiments have been replicated at multiple sites in the northern Great Basin to compare the effectiveness of these different drill types for seeding mixtures of native grasses, forbs and shrubs following fire. The minimum-till drill was found to be especially effective for small-seeded species such as Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis), an important ecosystem component that is otherwise slow to re-establish following fire. Other experimental comparisons highlight effects of seeding in different seasons, different seed quantities, and differences due to site-specific conditions and weather patterns. This research will assist managers in making informed decisions about when, what and how to seed to enhance post-fire recovery in sagebrush ecosystems.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Alexis Malcomb, GSD-Boise
  • Matt Fisk, GSD-Boise
  • Nancy Shaw, GSD-Boise (emeritus)
  • Scott Jensen, GSD-Provo
  • Boyd Simonson, USDA NRCS
  • Carl Rudeen, US Air Force
  • Charlie Bair, USDA NRCS
  • Jim Truax, Truax Co. Inc.
  • Loren St. John, USDA NRCS
  • Mike Pellant, USDI BLM, Boise
  • Robert Cox, Texas Tech University