Rangeland Restoration on the Channel Scablands of Eastern Washington

2014 Annual Report for OW13-005

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2013: $49,931.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Western
State: Utah
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Kip Panter

Rangeland Restoration on the Channel Scablands of Eastern Washington


Year 1:

Three sites were selected, prepared, and seeded on private ranches across a 25 mile transect to determine which perennial grasses would be best suited for the harsh environment of the Channeled Scablands of Eastern Washington State. After plots were prepared with herbicide application followed by tillage treatments, selected grasses (Hycrest II, Vavilov II, and Bozoiski II of the improved varieties and a native mix containing Sherman Big Bluegrass, Western Wheatgrass, Snake River Wheatgrass, and Thickspike Wheatgrass) were seeded into the plots in November using a rangeland drill. Subsequently, three Forage Kochia varieties (Immigrant, Sahro, and Pustinny) were surface broadcast on top of pre-selected plots with a Gandy drop seeder. The following spring, germination data were taken and the number of seedlings (including perennial grasses, annual grasses, and forbs) were counted using a half-meter square frame. Preliminary data indicate that Vavilov II and Hycrest II were the most successful perennial grasses, Sherman Big Bluegrass was the best performing grass from the native mix, and only a few seedlings of the Sahro and Immigrant Kochia were found in one Vavilov II plot. Kochia seedlings are very small and should be re-evaluated the second season to get an accurate assessment. No seedlings were counted from the Bozoiski II or the other three native species.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Year 1 1. Select study sites. We will establish experimental seeding plots on five ranches across a 40 mile transect to evaluate different rangelandconditions, soil types, environmental factors and microclimates. 2. Prepare seeding plots. We will use limited herbicide treatments and two tillage applications to prepare replicated plots on the five selected individual ranches. Plots will be 10 feet wide by X 50 feet long divided into two tillage applications, a 25 foot disturbed (disked) section and a 25 foot undisturbed section. 3. Plant selected perennial grasses and forbs. Treatments will include control, Mixed Natives, Hycrest II, Vavilov II, Bozoisky II, Immigrant + Vavilov II, Otavny + Vavilov II and Sahro + Vavilov II replicated four times across both tillage applications. This will be repeated on each of five ranches. Germination data will be collected in the fall of year 1.

Year 2 1. Evaluate germination and seedling establishment. Count germination responses in each of the replicated plots and record data. In the late summer or early fall of year 2, clip plots to compare biomass and forage quality. 2. Analyze data from year 1 and 2 and prepare reports for distribution to producers, land managers and others. Depending on data outcome, a stakeholder meeting may be held the fall or winter of year two or the following spring.

Year 3 1. Evaluate plots and collect data. Plots will be evaluated using a quarter meter squared clipping frame to compare number of plants between treatment. Frames will be clipped to compare biomass and samples will be analyzed for forage quality. Data will be statistically evaluated comparing germination, persistence, biomass and forage quality using mixed model statistical procedures. 2. Prepare information bulletins for distribution to producers, land managers and others. 3. Analyzed data will be prepared and reported in a peer-reviewed publication and extension bulletins.

Objectives for year one were completed.

  • Select study sites (completed)
  • Prepare seeding plots (completed)
  • Plant selected perennial grasses and forbs (completed)
  • Preliminary evaluation of germination data completed (year 2, objective 1)

Pre-proposal narrative:  A stakeholder meeting was held in Ritzville, Washington to provide research updates on previous lupine research conducted in the region and obtain input from local producers, extension personnel, land managers, etc. Preliminary plans were presented to determine the level of interest for this project, i.e. to introduce improved perennial grasses and forage kochia into the region. The response was mostly positive; however, multiple ranchers expressed concern about the forage kochia. We explained that forage kochia was not related to the annual weedy kochia and that forage kochia had the potential to improve their forage base, reduce impact of wildfires, and potentially provide an acceptable forage source in late summer when pregnant cattle tend to start grazing lupine and other forbs. We introduced the hypothesis that if cattle had a grazing choice (forage kochia) other than lupine in late summer, the incidence of lupine-induced “crooked calf syndrome” could be reduced. This created much discussion among the group but one rancher said “don’t take my cheat grass” and another said “I have tried seeding forage kochia and it won’t grow in this country.” We explained that we were confident we could improve on the cheat grass for forage and then explained that successful kochia establishment required fresh seed (less than a year old) and special seeding techniques. We then showed slides of examples of successful plantings in other regions. Further discussion followed and there appeared to be full support from the group to move forward. Once the meeting concluded, we met with ranchers that had expressed an interest and started a dialogue to move forward with site selection and site preparation. A second stakeholder meeting (Figure 1) was held in the spring at one of the proposed sites for a seeding plot and where previous grazing studies on lupine had been conducted. This stakeholder meeting was also well attended and many ranchers expressed their support and encouragement to move forward with the project.

With the assistance of local ranchers, technicians and cooperating scientists, three sites were selected and replicated plots were designed and laid out (Figure 2) on each of three ranches. The sites were selected across a 25-mile transect on the Channeled Scablands near Ritzville, Washington to take advantage of the various microclimates that occur in this region. These plots were staked, treated with herbicides, and two tillage treatments applied before preselected grass species were planted in November. Grass species were seeded using a Truax drill (Figure 3) at 12 pounds per acre. The forage kochia varieties were broadcast at 2 pounds per acre on the surface of the designated plots the following February using a Gandy drop seeder (Figure 4). Germination data were collected the following summer and a preliminary assessment determined. All performance targets were met for the first year of the proposal.


Germination data for the first year indicated that two of the improved perennial grasses (Hycrest II and Vavilov II) performed very well (Figure 5). Likewise, germination of one of the species of the native mix (Sherman Big Bluegrass) was excellent. Unfortunately, germination of the other three natives in the mix was poor. Bozoiski II performed poorly the first year also; further evaluation will be required before any conclusion can be determined. Kochia seedlings were very small and difficult to assess in this initial assessment; however, a few Immigrant and Sahro plants were found (kochia requires two to three years before establishment can be adequately assessed). All accomplishments for the first year were completed and all milestones fully met.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

While it is difficult to make any long term predictions or determine the impact of these seeding trials after a single year, the germination and seedling data were promising for two of the improved species (Vavlov II and Hycrest II) and one of the native species (Sherman Big Bluegrass). Kochia varieties will require further evaluation at the next season. We determined that this information provided enough positive information to move ahead with plans to expand the seedings to demonstration plots (1-1.5 acres in size) oriented very closely to the replicated plots. This is to provide ranchers, producers, land managers, etc. the opportunity to see how the ideal situation created with replicated plots would perform on a more practical basis. The replicated plots are critical to publish the data in peer reviewed journals, but the demonstration plots will provide a more practical and economical application. Each rancher where replicated plots were established agreed to provide enough land for the demonstration scale plots. These ranchers assisted in fencing the demonstration plots and preparing the ground for a fall and early winter seeding. Demonstration scale plots were selected on each of the three ranches where we established the replicated plots. A fourth site was selected for a demonstration plot on a producer’s land that expressed strong interest in the project.


Bill Harder

Harder Ranches
P.O. Box 146
Ritzville, WA 99169
Office Phone: 5096591307
Clint Stoncipher

Range Technician
Poisonous Plant Research Lab
1150 East 1400 North
Logan, UT 84341
Office Phone: 4357522941
Roy Clinesmith

S. Mack Rd
Benge, WA 99105
Office Phone: 5098872300
Dr. Kevin Jensen

Research Plant Geneticist
Forage and Range Research Lab
UMC 6300
Utah State University
Logan, UT 84341
Office Phone: 4357973099
Bill G. Harder

Harder Hereford Ranch
State Road 260 19577
Kahlotus, WA 99335
Office Phone: 5092823406
Dr. Clive Gay

Professor Emeritus
Field Disease Investigation Unit
College of Vet Medicine
Pullman, WA 99164
Office Phone: 3218680026
Branden Spencer

3251 E. Harder Road
Ritzville, WA 99169
Office Phone: 5098872475
John Kouns

506 Weber Avenue
Ritzville, WA 99169
Office Phone: 5096591761
Dr. Blair Waldron

Research Geneticist
Forage and Range Research Lab
Utah State University
Logan, UT 84341
Office Phone: 4357973073
Dick Coon

Bar U Ranch
2711 E. Ankeny Ln
Benge, WA 99105
Office Phone: 5096463313
Tom Platt

Aea Extension Educator
P.O. Box 399
Davenport, WA 99122
Office Phone: 5097254171