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Masco, Tylin [1], Bailey, Sarah [2], Johnson, Shaylee [3], Ellenwood, Jalynn [3], Pec, Gregory [4].

The Effect of Prescribed Fire and Grazing on Grass Forage Value.

The occurrence of fire (e.g., natural and prescribed) and grazing have long been associated with prairie ecosystems and are pivotal to maintaining diverse and resilient plant communities. Although numerous studies have evaluated the impacts of prescribed fire and grazing on prairie systems, less is known about the specific effect that prescribed fire and grazing have on grass forage value - an important component to the maintenance of livestock and wildlife production. To address this question, we investigated how prescribed fire and grazing affects the dry matter content and crude protein of grasses in a remnant prairie ecosystem. We predicted that both dry matter content and crude protein levels of grasses following recent prescribed fire should be higher due to increased plant growth and soil nutrients. We also predicted that grazing would increase the crude protein levels in grasses. As changes in the nutritive values of grasses may be associated with changes in plant diversity, particularly grass species, a secondary objective was to examine relationships between the recovering plant community and forage quality. Samples were taken from four areas (spatially separated by at least ½ km) that were under varying conditions of fire and grazing exposure within the loess hills of central Nebraska. Twenty (1m2) plots were established within each of the four areas. At each sampling point, we measured percent plant cover and harvested aboveground grass biomass through clipping. Clipped samples were dried, ground, and tested for dry matter content and total nitrogen content using a persulfate digestion method. Following this process, crude protein levels were calculated from total nitrogen content. Our results indicate that burning had a greater effect than grazing on crude protein levels of grasses, whereas dry matter content levels remained invariant across the treatment combinations. Additionally, grazing had a greater effect than burning on grass cover estimates. Taken together, our results indicate that incorporating prescribed fire rather than a grazing only management strategy increased forage value. Whereas, incorporating a combination of prescribed fire and grazing tended to increase plant diversity and productivity, particularly of grass species.

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1 - University of Nebraska at Kearney, Department of Biology, Bruner Hall of Science, Room 335, Kearney, Ne, 68845-4339, United States
2 - Prairie Plains Resource Institute, 1307 L Street, Aurora, NE, 68818, United States
3 - University of Nebraska at Kearney, Bruner Hall of Science, Room 335, Kearney, Ne, 68845-4339, United States
4 - University Of Nebraska At Kearney, Department Of Biology, Bruner Hall Of Science, Rm. 335, Kearney, NE, 68849, United States

Plant diversity
Forage Quality.

Presentation Type: Poster
Session: P1, Ecology Posters
Location: Virtual/Virtual
Date: Monday, July 19th, 2021
Time: 5:00 PM(EDT)
Number: P1EC007
Abstract ID:357
Candidate for Awards:None

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