Application of Lessons Learned from NRCS Rangeland CEAP: A site-specific, Low Cost System for Medusahead Control

Project Overview

EW13-027
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2013: $68,469.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Jeremy James
University of California

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Animals: bovine

Practices

  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: chemical control, competition, integrated pest management, precision herbicide use, prevention, weed ecology

    Abstract:

    Rangelands represent the largest continuous network of working landscapes in the West. However, the invasive annual grass medusahead is driving whole-sale changes in the structure and viability of the ranching enterprises and the non-market ecosystems services these working landscapes support. The NRCS Rangeland Conservation Effects Assessment Project found that over 80% of rangeland weed management efforts failed over the long-term for three central reasons including: 1) lack of simple weed management decision-support systems that address site-specific environmental conditions 2) lack of low-cost tools for weed management and 3) lack of peer-learning networks to promote development and dissemination of on-the-ground knowledge. Over the last five years we have developed three lines of work that address all three major barriers to adoption and success of medusahead control. The goal of this project is to use our five years of previous work to develop and deploy a holistic education and technology transfer program for sustainable agriculture extension, education and training agents in California and Oregon that addresses the central ecological, economic and sociological barriers limiting enduring medusahead management programs. We propose to translate our knowledge base into a site-specific, low-cost management framework, to host training workshops for agricultural professionals to learn to deploy and enhance this framework, and to initiate ranch-scale demonstrations of this framework. Expected long-term outcomes include an enhanced forage based in linked production systems, increased biodiversity, decreased catastrophic wildfire generated by medusahead, as well as more sustainable and resilient agricultural enterprises, rural economies, and communities.

    Project objectives:

    We will address our education and technology transfer goal through four key objectives:

    1. Develop and produce a user-friendly, decision-support system for ranch-specific medusahead management. This product will allow NRCS to work with ranchers in a step-by-step manner to tailor a simple, long-term medusahead management program that addresses specific enterprise economic and ecological constraints.

    2. Produce technical guidelines outlining low-cost medusahead management tools including:

      1. A simple monitoring and forecasting tool to identify most likely periods of medusahead susceptibility to grazing, mowing and herbicides

      2. Guidelines for manipulating the spatial distribution of attractants to maximize grazing pressure on medusahead during critical growth periods

      3. Comparison and contrast of alternative “precision grazing” systems on medusahead

      4. Cost-benefit summaries of low-cost medusahead IPM programs

    3. Host training workshops for NRCS and other professionals to gain in-depth understanding of the ecology, economics and sociology driving development and application of our products as well as how to deploy products in a real-world ranch setting.

    4. Establish peer-learning networks using joint NRCS-producer ranch-level demonstrations and evaluations of our decision-support system and technical guides.

    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.