- Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial)
- Animals: bovine
- Animal Production: grazing management, grazing - continuous, range improvement
- Sustainable Communities: social psychological indicators, environmental attitudes
Tall fescue (Schenodorus phoenix) is a grass considered invasive in 14 states, and has detrimental effects on both cattle and wildlife. Most research on invasive species has focused on agricultural and ecological costs, but consideration of local attitudes towards invasive species is also needed to understand if there are social barriers to invasive removal. We propose to study the interrelated agricultural, ecological, and sociological dynamics of tall fescue in the Grand River Grasslands of Ringgold County, Iowa and Harrison County, Missouri. This proposal is therefore entitled, “Agricultural, ecological, and social responses to an invasive grass and its removal in working Midwestern grasslands.” Agriculturally, we will evaluate how tall fescue abundance and experimental reduction of tall fescue affect cattle foraging choices. Information on foraging preferences will demonstrate the potential economic value of fescue control for farmers and facilitate sward optimization. We will also examine how grassland bird and arthropod communities respond to tall fescue using transect surveys to elucidate the costs and benefits for wildlife of removing fescue. We will then determine landowner willingness to remove tall fescue through mailed surveys and compare landowner attitudes to a previous study to track change over time. This will reveal barriers and opportunities for controlling fescue. This knowledge will aid farmers seeking to increase economic output as well as state agencies seeking to support grassland wildlife. Lastly, we will produce educational programming about tall fescue and sustainable agriculture for high school students to increase ecological literacy in the community. Our project is uniquely positioned to address the North Central Region-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education goals by laying the groundwork for controlling this agriculturally and ecologically damaging grass on private lands. Our project will strengthen farming communities in Iowa and Missouri by finding ways to involve private landowners in invasive species management and biodiversity conservation. By revealing the potential of fescue removal for improving pasture and habitat quality, our project presents an opportunity to enhance rancher profitability and agricultural sustainability.
Project objectives from proposal:
Tall fescue (Schenodorus phoenix), a common grass species, is considered invasive in 14 states and has known detrimental effects on cattle. Our primary outcome is identifying ways to reduce tall fescue that benefit Midwestern cattle producers and enhance conditions for grassland dependent wildlife. Our efforts will produce multiple learning and action outcomes encompassing agriculture, ecology, and sociology. Agriculturally, we will identify the foraging preference of cattle using a gradient of fescue abundance created through herbicide application. Information on cattle foraging preferences will demonstrate the potential economic value of fescue control for farmers and facilitate sward optimization. Ecologically, we will determine the impacts of tall fescue abundance and its removal on avian and arthropod communities, revealing the costs and benefits of fescue removal for wildlife. We will communicate these impacts to ecologically conscientious landowners. Socially, we will determine landowner willingness to remove tall fescue, with comparisons to a previous study focusing on a different invasive species. We will relate landowner willingness to agricultural financial dependency, revealing barriers and opportunities for controlling fescue. We will also produce educational programming about sustainable agriculture for high school students and offer a workshop for private landowners to increase ecological literacy in the community. We aim to lay the groundwork for future efforts to control tall fescue on private lands. This knowledge will aid farmers seeking to increase economic output and state agencies seeking to enhance conditions for grassland wildlife. Looking to the future, our community outreach efforts will increase local knowledge about sustainable agriculture.