The Mortenson family ranch is an 18,000 acre cow/calf operation in Stanley County, west river, South Dakota. The ranch is strongly devoted to Holistic Resource Management (HRM) and has invested in cross-fencing and stock watering for an intensively managed rotational grazing system. We see our major crop as native grass and use cattle as the harvester. We have been working for over thirty years to restore riparian vegetation and bio-diversity on our ranch. However, very little of our efforts have been scientifically evaluated.
The majority of riparian areas in this part of the country were destroyed during the homesteading days (1890-1915) and have never been restored. This has resulted in massive stream bank and channel erosion, loss of bio-diversity of riparian plants, loss of wildlife habitat, loss of ground water storage capacity, and loss of the productive forage potential in the riparian zone. There is also a lack of seed supply for many rare plants.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
We proposed to mechanically harvest, with a special seed stripper pulled by an ATV, seeds of ten different riparian/range plants from small areas on our ranch in the late summer and fall of 1994. In the early spring of 1995 we will scatter the seeds in ten different areas along Foster Creek which runs through our ranch. Cattle will be used, after seed distribution, to plant the seeds the same spring. This is a basic principal in Holistic Resource Management that hoofed animals are instrumental in seed planting. Transects will be run and photos taken at each location the first summer to inventory plants before planting and again the following summer to evaluate establishment of the ten species.
The major expense in this project occurred due to insect damage to several of the native legumes during the fall of ’94. Because of this unforeseen damage much more of the project funds were used in travel and hours of locating the plants we intended to replant. We were successful in collecting all of the seeds but the cost ate up funds quite well. It has also been determined to build our own harvesting machine from our inventory on the ranch. Because we believe to be self-sustaining we need to show ranchers and farmers that a little sweat and brainstorming will be better in the long run than purchase of a machine which after investigation proved not to be feasible for our operation. The funds will be used to redesign and manufacture a harvester which we built in 1987. Since most operators have the necessary equipment available, we will develop a machine which will be easy to build and maintain. We reseeded the Fort Creek in March of 1995. we also reseeded in the fall of 1995. this was done because of the seed availability on the ranch this year. Maturing and reseeding will continue for years to come.
I have also started selling seeds collected from the ranch to greenhouses and other distributors in the area of Minnesota, Wyoming, Colorado and South Dakota.
Seeds used in this project:
– Purple Prairie Clover – 4 lbs
– White Prairie Clover – 1 lb
– Lead Plant – Amorpha canensesis – 10 lbs
– Dwarf Indigo – Amorpha nana – 20 lbs
– Sensitive Briar – 4 lbs
– Dotted Gayfeather – 6oz.
– Ground plum Milkoetch – 5lbs
– Buffalo Bean – 6 oz.
– Golden Buffalo Clover – 2 lbs
– Silktop Dalihea – 1 lb
– False Indigo – 15 lbs
– Big Bluestem – 5 lbs
– Little Bluestem – 3 lbs
– Prairie Sand reed – 2 lbs
– Prairie Turnip – 4 lbs
All of the above were harvested from our ranch in fall ’94 and summer and fall of ’95.
We also planted seeds from trees on our ranch with project funds:
– Green Ash – 10lbs
– Hawthorne – 4 lbs
– Hackberry – 2 lbs
– Cottonwood – 2 lbs
Jeff Mortenson will set up ATV harvesting machine and will harvest seeds and scatter the seeds in the ten plots along Foster Creek. In addition, he will assist with transect data collection, arranging and conducting tours and in the creation of the brochures and video, and will construct the one mile of fence needed to insure all of Foster Creek will be in a riparian pasture for management of grazing.
Todd Mortenson will see that the cattle are rotated through each transect to assure planting of seeds at the appropriate time, and will assist with the construction of the fence.
Dr. Robert Gartner, Professor of Range Science, SDSU, and Agriculture Research Ext. Station will design the appropriate procedures for gathering the data and conducting the experiment to assure it will be valid. Will also assist in selection of appropriate sites for the trials and in analyzing the data and preparing results for publications.
Paul Ingle, Natural Resource Specialist, will assist in data collection, arranging tours, writing articles for the news media and natural resource journals, and for creating a slide show, video, and brochure for sharing at riparian-related seminars and distributing to conservation agencies.
With the project funding I was able to travel and speak to several groups about the economic benefits of HRM and of the value of native legumes for seed and animal profitability. To date (11-95) I have several producers and other people quite interested in collecting and selling seeds.