Low Cost Method of Establishing High Seral Native Grass Species
The Stuart ranches contain vast areas of abandoned farmland that have been allowed to go back to native species. The plant species that now persist are weedy low seral (early successional) and contribute little to animal carrying capacity. The ranch goal is to manage toward high seral species. These species would consist of big bluestem, indiangrass, switchgrass, old world bluestem and eastern gammagrass. Because of past farming activities, the natural seed bank is void of these high seral species. The cost of planting seed over the entire affected area of the ranch is prohibitive. We are interested in a low-cost method of restoring this natural seed bank by establishing mother plants in trails over the ranch and, in time, these plants will produce an abundance of seed. We believe that if our approach to establishing mother plants and allowing these plants produce seed is successful, this would be a quick and economical approach of restoring grasslands to a higher and more productive condition.
We will spread seed in strategic areas to establish mother plants that in turn will be managed to produce seed to spread to adjacent areas. We want to experiment with mixing seed of the abovementioned high seral species and spread the seed on the ground with a Truax Seed Slinger at the same time protein cubes are dispensed to the ground for cattle to feed.
By putting seed near the trail of protein cubes, seed would be treaded into the soil by the hoof action of the animals. The seed mix will then be carried to the pastures from October through March at strategic locations and then dispersed in trails to the cattle herd. Twenty seed trails will be established in year one and another 20 in year two that would cover a variety of pastures and range sites and two growing seasons. Seed trails will be both parallel and perpendicular to the prevailing wind to create a cross pattern for future seed to disperse down wind. The same seed mix will be broadcast in a trail away from the protein cube trail. This will allow us to evaluate the effect of animal hoof action in trampling in the seed. We will measure the number of established plants each October following application of the seed. Plant population of high seral species will be determined per foot of treated area as affected by month of planting, soil class and/or range sites and hoof action as an aid in getting plants established.