Converting A 'Weedy' Grass To Quality Forage For Livestock

While native plants are adapted to thrive in our region, they don’t always provide the best forage for livestock or wildlife. But what if you could change that? What if you could convert bad forage to good?

That’s the question Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Lance Vermeire asked when studying purple threeawn, a decidedly less than nutritious native perennial bunchgrass that can readily invade disturbed areas or overgrazed pasture land. You can find out what he learned Friday, April 3, during the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Ag Research Lab’s final BrownBagger talk of the 2015 season.

Dr. Vermeire is a range ecologist with the USDA-ARS Livestock and Range Research Laboratory in Miles City and has focused on the ecology of rangeland weeds, rangeland monitoring techniques, and the ecological effects of prescribed fire on soil, plants, and animals. Dr. Vermeire’s talk, “Managing purple threeawn with fire and nitrogen,” starts at noon at the Sidney ARS lab and is open to the public.

Purple threeawn has sharp awns that can irritate the mouths, nostrils and eyes of animals eating it and its high fiber and low protein concentrations make for poor to only fair forage quality. At the same time the bunchgrass is a very competitive species that can make it difficult to control, so a different management approach was needed, according to Vermeire.

Knowing that both fire and nitrogen have been demonstrated to increase forage quality in other plant species, Vermeire questioned whether they might have the same effect on purple awn, negating any need to remove it from the system. He subsequently studied the impacts of different prescribed fire and nitrogen regimens on purple awn at plots near Terry, MT, in 2011-2012 and, yes, one of the tested tools proved particularly effective! Find out which one as we conclude this year’s NPARL BrownBagger series on Friday at noon.

Bring your lunch and join us for this very informative talk. We’ll provide the treats!

NPARL’s annual BrownBagger series is held every winter in the lab’s Tech Transfer Room on Fridays, from noon to 1 p.m. The lab is located at 1500 N. Central Avenue in Sidney, MT.

For more information, contact Beth Redlin at 406-433-9427.


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