Cheatgrass and wildfire are severely impacting wildlife habitat and livestock grazing on Western rangelands. The FRRL is developing tall, nutritious forage kochia that reduces wildfire, while providing critical habitat and winter grazing. Tall forage kochia will reduce Winter feed costs and minimize impact of wildfire on livestock and wildlife.
Applied plant breeding and quantitative genetics research are used to develop improved forage and turf plants adapted to semi-arid rangelands, irrigated pastures, and reduced input landscapes. The project has three main objectives:
- To develop taller cultivars of forage kochia. These larger-statured forage kochia's will add additional value to this nutritious, fire resistant, semi-shrub by expanding its potential use for winter habitat and grazing by livestock and wildlife.
- To develop unique cultivars of forage-type, endophyte-free tall fescue. These cultivars are developed and adapted to the unique environment of irrigated pastures in semi-arid, temperate environments, and are being bred for improved livestock utilization (high yield, soft leaves, and increased digestibility). Other unique traits that will targeted in this breeding program include selecting for improved drought tolerance and compatibility with legumes to decrease inputs of irrigations and fertilizer.
- To develop low-input turf grasses with emphasis on the drought tolerant wheatgrasses. Breeding and research focus is on reducing irrigation requirements while improving the aesthetic turf quality. The release of "RoadCrest" crested wheatgrass is an example of how these plant materials may be used in reduced input landscapes such as, roadsides, parks, golf course roughs, and cabins and recreational homes.