Restoring Rangeland Quality with Soil Health Enhancement

Final report for OW16-038

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2016: $44,450.00
Projected End Date: 01/15/2019
Grant Recipient: Crooked River Weed Management Area
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Debbie Wood
Crooked River Weed Management Area
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Project Information

Abstract:

Rangeland cattle ranches face the invasion of winter annual grasses, which outcompete good quality forage for cattle production and wildlife diversity. Cheatgrass (downy brome, Bromus tectorum) and medusahead rye (Taeniatherum caput-medusae) can quickly turn into a monoculture and add little or no nutritional value. With our “Restoring Rangeland Quality with Soil Health Enhancement” project we have defined a particular geographic region in which all landowners and managers have a common interest in controlling existing populations and the future spread of medusahead rye and cheatgrass, which continue to invade the entire landscape. This collaborative effort evaluated and demonstrated the effective use of soil enhancing bacterium, a new and ground-breaking technology for inhibiting growth on medusahead rye and cheatgrass. There were 16,095 acres of medusahead rye and cheatgrass surveyed between 7 producers and 1 collaborator, starting in 2016 before aerial spraying occurred in October 2016. Aerial treatment was done at the end of October 2016, with bacteria/ herbicide together and bacteria alone. For the project 2862 net acres was aerial sprayed and 153 net acres were sprayed by landowners behind ATV. The rate of spray for bacteria was 1 gallon per acre and herbicide (Imazapic) was 6 ounces per acre. 1962 net acres was bacteria only and 1053 net acres was both bacteria and herbicide. A ten acre plot was created at the Nature conservancy using bacteria only at a rate of 2 gallons per acre on cheatgrass. Monitoring photos at 11 sites has been uploaded into the samplepoint.org application as suggested by Dr. Ann Kennedy at Washington State University. This program defines habitat density by pixels. Producers will be following up with monitoring each spring, taking new pictures looking at effectiveness. The results concluded a few monitoring sites with soil bacteria only sprayed, showed small reduction of annual grasses or the grasses were stunted, as to something was happening in the soils. The conclusion landowners had from the project was the bacteria did not make enough difference to use again or adopt as a new practice.

2016-2017-Monitor-Photo-comparison-Report 2016 Western SARE spray map 2016 Western SARE camera sites_map2016-2017-2018 Monitor Photo comparison Report

Project Objectives:

Objectives / Performance Targets:

  1. To evaluate and demonstrate the use of soil enhancement bacteria in rangeland in Crook County.
  2. To restore rangeland health by reducing annual invasive grasses and increasing native grass production.
  3. To inform producers in the community and land managers with a cost analysis of management options on rangeland for long-term production.

 

The project’s goal to restore rangeland health and function for the Greater Sage-grouse coincides with restoring mule deer habitat and most importantly, increasing livestock forage production. Dryland forage is essential for this ranching community as cattle use rangeland for grazing most of the year. This collaborative effort will evaluate and demonstrate the effective use of soil enhancing bacterium, a new and ground-breaking technology for inhibiting growth on medusahead rye and cheatgrass. These weed- suppressive bacteria are selective and ecologically safe, field tested to assist with present restoration efforts within the project boundaries. The bacterium allows desired native species to be more competitive in the plant community where they can reseed and encourage plant diversity.

In 2016 was the beginning steps for our project objectives. All 6 ranchers from the original participants list, plus one more rancher through outreach was added, all participated in the surveying research.  CRWMA with the participation of producers and The Nature Conservancy, photos were taken before spraying bacteria (MB 906) and photo monitoring pics were taken after aerial spraying. Monitoring photos at 11 sites have been uploaded into the samplepoint.org application for habitat density by pixels. Data results were done in 2016, 2017, and again in 2018 to compare outcome as to soil bacteria effectiveness.

In 2017 the objective was to take field observations at the 11 monitoring sites established in November of 2016. Field observations were taken in May/June 2017 with all 7 producers and both collaborators involved. A new producer came on to the project in spring 2016 after talking with neighboring producers within the project. Monitoring this year was done at the 11 located field plot sites that was established in November 2016. The monitoring photos at the 11 sites have been uploaded into the samplepoint.org application.

In 2018 the objective was to take field observations at the 11 monitoring sites established in November of 2016. Field observations were taken in May/June/July 2018 with all 7 producers and both collaborators involved. Monitoring this year was done at the 11 located field plot sites that was established in November 2016. The monitoring photos at the 11 sites have been uploaded into the samplepoint.org application. The program defines habitat density by pixels for comparison with  2017 and 2016 photos.

Cost analysis for aerial spraying bacteria verses herbicide was; First year, bacteria being $ 8.40 per acre and helicopter was $23.00 per acre. If herbicide was added with bacteria, chemical was $8.70 and helicopter service was $23.00 per acre.

In all cases the target species was medusahead rye and cheatgrass. A bacterium, MB 906 from BioWest Ag Solutions was aerial sprayed with and without herbicide.  Due to the cost and the helicopter sprayer, we did not use native seed coated with bacteria. Aerial spraying took place at the end of October 2016. This was the first step in restoring rangeland health as the fall treatment window is very narrow. All producers and collaborators were happy to see bacteria sprayed. For the project 2862 net acres was aerial sprayed and 153 net acres were sprayed by landowners behind ATV. This met our performance target, which was 3000 net acres.906 Label_MB906_OREGON_11.7.2015

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Neil (Doc) Dow
  • Brooke Gray
  • Kelley Hamilton
  • Susan Hermreck
  • Allen and Sara Teskey
  • Lanney & Betty Tweedt
  • Brad & Julie Waibel
  • Greg and Wendy Bedortha

Research

Materials and methods:

This project was created at 11 different private land sites with different micro climates, soils, and vegetation (both native and invasive) in Paulina and Post, Oregon collaborating with 7 producers and 1 participant. 2016 Medusahead_Project Treatment applications occurred on October 2016 with 7 sites with bacteria(MB 906) only treatments and 4 sites with herbicide and bacteria together treatments.Monitor sites were picked for ease of access due to weather conditions in the spring and late fall and the amount of annual grass infestation. 2016 Western SARE spray map One spot on the Blue Mt Ranch was a control with no treatments. In all cases the target species was medusahead rye and cheatgrass. A bacterium, MB 906 from BioWest Ag Solutions was aerial sprayed with and without herbicide. Due to the terrain, aerial application was needed. Sites were open to include normal ranch operations with cattle grazing and open for wildlife. The Juniper Hills Nature Conservancy sites excluded grazing from livestock. For the project 2862 net acres was aerial sprayed and 153 net acres were sprayed by landowners behind ATV. The rate of spray for bacteria was 1 gallon per acre and herbicide (Imazapic) was 6 ounces per acre. 1962 net acres was bacteria only and 1053 net acres was both bacteria and herbicide. A ten acre plot was created at the Nature conservancy using bacteria only at a rate of 2 gallons per acre on cheatgrass. 

Data collection occurred in fall 2016, spring 2017, and spring 2018 with a camera on a frame. 5 frames for cameras Photos from the camera were transformed from jpeg to bmp format to upload into software from http://samplepoint.org/

Photo monitoring were also done by comparing same site photos from 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Participation Summary
7 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

7 Consultations
2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary

7 Farmers
4 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Outreach efforts continue with producers and collaborators creating an updated brochure for 2017. Producers are continuing to look for noxious weed treatments and more cost effective measures to improve rangeland health. Producers and collaborators were present at the Crook County Soil and Water District Paulina Landowner Workshop in February 2017 and again in February 2018. Powerpoint on project Throughout the year collaborators meet with producers for consultations on their properties, discussing observations and outcomes to date. Producers and collaborators were present at monitoring site visits. Crooked River Weed Management Area presented on the project to the Deschutes Native Seedbank board meeting in September 2017. The group is interested in the project and considering a project involving native seed and the soil bacterium in the near future.SARE-3nd-Year-Spring-2018 2016-2017-Monitor-Photo-comparison-Report

2016-2017-2018 Monitor Photo comparison Report

 

Learning Outcomes

7 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • Grazing management, Restoring range habitat, Invasive species awareness

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
1 New working collaboration
Project outcomes:

Impacts

In working with producers through interviews and site visits, CRWMA was able to respond directly to producers’ questions and specifically evaluate their private lands and make recommendations that support active management to improve productivity of rangelands.

Cost analysis for aerial spraying bacteria verses herbicide was; First year, bacteria being $ 8.40 per acre and helicopter was $23.00 per acre. If herbicide was added with bacteria, chemical was $8.70 and helicopter service was $23.00 per acre.

This Western SARE grant assisted in leveraging $10,000 in funds from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife from the Mule Deer Initiative for herbicide. The herbicide was used to help with producers cost and sprayed with bacteria in different project sites.

 

 

Accomplishments

In 2016, this was the first step in restoring rangeland health as the fall spray window is very narrow. All producers and collaborators were happy to see bacteria sprayed, an accomplishment in itself as weather is unpredictable.  Due to late fall dry and warmer weather conditions, treatment was later than expected into the end of October. The ideal timing for treatment for medusahead rye and cheatgrass is when germination has occurred in fall, just before heavy rains or snow. Daytime temperatures were still in the 50’s. Fall 2016 Monitor Photos   

All 6 ranchers from the original participants list, plus one more rancher through outreach was added, all participated in the surveying research.  CRWMA with the participation of producers and The Nature Conservancy, photos were taken before spraying bacteria (MB 906) and photo monitoring pics were taken after aerial spraying. Monitoring photos at 11 sites have been uploaded into the samplepoint.org application for habitat density by pixels. Results will be done in the next few months to compare with new photos to be taken in April 2017.

Through outreach efforts, one producer joined this project and aerial treated his land with bacteria. Outreach efforts continue with producers and collaborators creating a brochure. Producers are looking for alternative options for weed treatment and more cost effective measures than herbicide to improve rangeland health. .SARE 2nd Year Spring

In 2017 the objective was to take field observations at the 11 monitoring sites established in November of 2016. Field observations were taken in May/June 2017 with all 7 producers and both collaborators involved. A new producer came on to the project in spring 2016 after talking with neighboring producers within the project. Monitoring this year was done at the 11 located field plot sites that was established in November 2016. The monitoring photos at the 11 sites have been uploaded into the samplepoint.org application. The program defines habitat density by pixels for comparison with 2016 photos. Producers followed up with monitoring  in spring 2018, taking new pictures looking at effectiveness. Photos taken in October/November 2018 as well for effectiveness.2016-2017-2018 Monitor Photo comparison Report 2016-2017-Monitor-Photo-comparison-Report

  2016 Fall Monitor Sites                
Site  Image  GridSize  Actual  %NGrass  %Forb  %Shrub  %Litter  %Rock  %Soil  %Cheatgrass  %Medusahead rye
1 LazyBJ Ranch_1 100 100 0 0 0 55 0 1 0 44
2 LazyBJ Ranch_2 100 100 27 0 0 16 9 47 0 1
3 Hermreck_3  100 100 0 0 0 60 2 29 0 9
4 BlueMt Ranch_4 100 100 0 0 0 69 0 10 0 21
5 SabreRidge Ranch_5 100 100 0 10 0 41 6 17 0 26
6 Waibel Ranch_6 100 100 0 0 0 98 0 0 0 2
7 Waibel_7 100 100 2 6 0 67 1 4 0 20
8 TNC_cheatgrass_8  100 100 10 0 0 62 0 0 28 0
9 TNC_MH _9 100 100 0 0 0 95 0 0 0 5
11 Tweedt Ranch_11 100 100 3 0 0 56 1 7 0 33
  2017 Spring Monitor Sites                          
Site  Image  GridSize  Actual  %grass    %forbs    %shrub    %litter    %rock    %soil  %cheatgrass  %medusahead rye
1  LazyBJ Site1 100 100 22   8   0   28   2   16 16 8
2  LazyBJ Site2 100 100 22   4   0   15   17   31 3 8
3  HermrecksSite3 100 100 20   15   0   24   1   30 3 7
4  Blue Mt. Site4 100 100 1   6   0   31   6   6 4 46
5  Sabre Ridge Site5 100 100 3   23   0   32   5   22 2 13
6  Waibel Site6 100 100 3   2   0   76   3   12 2 2
7  Waibel Site7 100 100 4   4   0   39   7   43 3 0
8  TNC_JuniperHills Site8 100 100 40   7   0   4   0   4 45 0
9  TNC_Juniper Hills Site9 100 100 12   15   0   35   2   1 20 15
11  Tweedt Site11 100 100 25   16   0   24   1   11 1 22
13  Blue Mt. Site13 100 100 2   1   0   58   1   2 0 36
  2018 Spring Monitor Sites                
Site  Image  GridSize  Actual  %NGrass  %Forb  %Shrub  %Litter  %Rock  %Soil  %Cheatgrass  %Medusahead rye
1  Lazy BJ Ranch #1 100 100 4 0 0 55 3 38 0 0
2  Lazy BJRanch #2 100 100 21 0 0 24 9 46 0 0
3  Hermreck Ranch 100 100 0 7 0 31 26 20 1 15
4  Blue Mt Ranch #4 100 100 0 0 0 48 4 14 1 33
5  SabreRidge Ranch #5 100 100 4 22 0 25 39 10 0 0
6  Waibel Ranches #6 100 100 0 7 0 20 5 68 0 0
7  Waibel Ranches #7 100 100 4 2 0 25 14 55 0 0
8  TNC Cheatgrass #8 100 100 44 7 0 36 0 0 13 0
9  TNC Site Medusahead #9 100 100 1 4 0 82 1 0 1 11
11  Tweedt Ranch #11 100 100 0 14 0 57 0 23 0 6
13  Blue Mt Ranch #13 100 100 0 0 0 61 3 11 0 25

Outcomes

The results concluded a few monitoring sites with soil bacteria only sprayed, showed small reduction of annual grasses or the grasses were stunted, as to something was happening in the soils. The monitor sites where both imazapic and bacteria were treated showed better results, but this might be due to the herbicide and not the bacteria working. The sites we studied were working lands with a wide range of soil types from red clay to loamy soils on the outside of a pivot. The conclusion landowners had from the project was the bacteria did not make enough difference to use again or adopt as a new practice. The herbicide imazapic at 6 ounces/acre continued to be effective to decrease cheatgrass or medusahead rye. Precipitation might have been a factor for bacteria in 2017 and 2018 as 9-12 inches is the normal rate for the project area.

Project Weather Precipitation

https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/climate/yeardisp.php?stn=KRDM&wfo=pdt&year=2016&span=Calendar+Year

Success stories:

One monitoring site had results of lines where vegetation was stressed to create lines, which could be seen from google earth. We compared them with the treatment pattern from aerial spraying the bacteria only. Lines showed up in 2017. Factors to contribute to results might have been rocky soils and decrease in precipitation for 2017 and 2018. This may or may not be a success story, but it is one worth noting for the project.

Sabre Ridge Bacteria Only 2019 Map Sabre Ridge Bacteria Only_Map With Lines

Sabre Ridge Ranch Monitor Site Pictures

Recommendations:

The conclusion landowners had from the project was the bacteria did not make enough difference to use again or adopt as a new practice. Three years to see little or no results was too long for producers. The herbicide imazapic at 6 ounces/acre continued to be effective to decrease cheatgrass or medusahead rye, but as a short term fix. Future research needs to happen for a long term solution to restore rangeland from annual grass invasion. The solution has to be a cost effective approach for producers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.