Patch Burn-Grazing to Promote Environmental Sustainability

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $144,685.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Alexander Smart
South Dakota State University

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: grazing - continuous, grazing management, range improvement, grazing - rotational
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Context: Highly fragmented Northern Great Plains pastures are currently managed for homogeneous forage production, increasing short-term returns but lowering long-term environmental sustainability by increasing susceptibility to invasive species and reducing critical fauna and flora habitats. Historically, fire was a key factor in maintaining grassland integrity, but its suppression during the last century has caused declines in grassland diversity. Recently, State, Federal, University, and non-profit personnel, with over 20 years of burning experience, formed the “Prairie Coteau Habitat Partnership” greatly increasing the opportunity for this project’s success. Approach: Patch burn-grazing, traditional continuous grazing, and rotational grazing treatments will be compared on 4 producer farms/ranches in eastern South Dakota from 2007-2009. An additional 2 producer sites will receive just the patch burn-grazing treatment for demonstration purposes. Vegetative diversity, forage quality and productivity, canopy structure, and selected soil parameters that influence water, nitrogen, and energy budgets will be measured. Outputs: a thesis, 2 scientific meeting abstracts, 2 journal articles, 2 extension publications, 3 Field Days, and several bus tours. Evaluation plan: site selection, grazing strategy protocols, data collection, and data summaries will be discussed annually with producers and research team. Field days followed by surveys and follow-up phone calls will be used to determine success of project adoption rates.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Knowledge of patch burn-graze impacts on change of plant community structure
    2. Scientific community informed about vegetation change of patch burn-grazing
    3. 100 ranchers informed about patch burn-grazing
    4. 6 cooperators measure vegetation diversity
    5. Improved diversity and structural characteristics of pastures for the 6 cooperating ranchers
    6. 25 regional ranchers adopt patch burn-graze management strategies

    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.