North Dakota State
Student Staff 2002 Phone (701) 424-3606
Phone (701) 424-3606
In July of 1981 the Central Grasslands Research Station began operation with three full time employees. In that time Central Grasslands has seen many changes. Our staff has grown to nine permanent employees and 10 to 12 seasonal employees. The name has also changed to the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center. The addition of extension in the description of the Center emphasizes the importance of the outreach component of our mission as set forth in House Bill 1528 which states: To demonstrate management techniques and advise operators of results obtained. As we plan our future here at the Center it is our goal to have a full time Extension rangeland specialist soon.
Cooperative Research and Graduate Programs
Any discussion of the past twenty years would be incomplete without acknowledgment of the scientists from the Main Experiment Station in Fargo whose cooperation with researchers here at the CGREC has expanded our research efforts. As part of the Agricultural Experiment Station the CGREC is an outdoor laboratory whose pastures and livestock provide an opportunity for studies that attempt to solve the problems of producers in the Coteau region of North Dakota. As operating budgets have become smaller, it has become more difficult for the scientists from the Main Station to travel out into the state to conduct research. One solution to this problem is the addition of graduate research assistantships which allow graduate students to assist the scientists in conducting the research here at CGREC and elsewhere in the state. This report contains articles from four of these students discussing results of their research here at the Center.
At the present time the CGREC is working in cooperation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service Plant Materials Center in Bismarck, and the regional office in Jamestown on studies on both plant and animal uses of the resource. The Agricultural Research Service in Mandan has several studies located at the CGREC. We are currently working with the ARS in Lincoln Nebraska on rangeland hydrology studies and on the use of switch grass for ethanol production. The CGREC is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coop unit at South Dakota State University to inventory the non-game bird species use of various plant communities under different cultural practices.
Modeling Ecosystems Research
In the fall of 2000 the CGREC was fortunate to hire a new scientist to work with the researchers at the Center and the Main Station. Dr. Xuejun Dong came to the Center from Duke University where he was working in their Phytotron on the ecophysiology of salt desert shrubs. Dr. Dong received his PhD degree from the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing, China, in ecophysiology. He has worked both in China and the US on various projects and has numerous publications of his work. Dr. Dong will be working on several of our existing projects as well as starting research of his own. Dr. Dong is developing a model to predict plant response to both environmental pressure and grazing. The development of this model will assist scientists in making recommendations to producers on grazing and livestock operations.
Recent discussions with producers on research needs has shown an increased interest in a systems type approach to ranching that looks at all aspects of ranching operations including breeding, calving, grazing, finishing and slaughter. This is very difficult research to accomplish. First of all it takes a great deal of resources to accomplish with large numbers of livestock and many acres of land required. Secondly, the choice of the type of system to study may not match what any given producer would want. This includes the type of animal breed, calving season, health care and livestock management, type of grazing systems, feeding and finishing operations, to name just a few. To devote this much resource to a project and then have it not fit a number of producers’ needs is a problem. The answer to this dilemma is to use a computer model to answer many of these questions faster and with less costly inputs. The difficulty with models is that there has been a lack of quality of inputs to make them very reliable. This is changing as computers and modeling programs get better and our understanding of the types of input data required increases. Working with models also gives researchers a better understanding of the areas of research needed to acquire the necessary input data. This helps direct our research programs to aid our overall understanding of the science.
Natural Resources and Regional Concept
In this year’s annual report we have attempted to stress the regionality of the CGREC. When the Center was established the mission statement made it clear that the center was to serve the Coteau region of the state. To this end we have invited several papers on agricultural and natural resources throughout the Coteau region. This report contains articles on scientific studies conducted by NDSU researchers at the Center and also several articles from other agencies on natural resources in the Coteau region of the State.
The awareness of these resources are not new to the producers of the Coteau who have been managing the land for so many years. But they have just recently become an additional income source for those caretakers and have come to the attention of people outside the region and the state.
Nature Tourism and Recreation Opportunities
Tourism has become a more important income resource for North Dakota producers in recent years. Many have found that those outside the upper Midwest have a great interest in seeing the unspoiled vast open areas of the Coteau region and the wildlife that is common to those of us who live here year round. While providing the facilities and activities for tourists won’t be something a majority of producers will want to do, the fact that these people will pay for the right to utilize the open spaces of the Coteau may be an additional income resource for producers who have or wish to enhance their wildlife habitat.
While fee hunting has restricted access to private land, bird watching and agro-tourism create fewer problems and these activities need not adhere to any specific license or season. Those who have invested a good deal of money on lodging and “bed and breakfast” type facilities can now utilize these for a much larger clientele. These opportunities are simply enterprises like any crop that some producers may want to investigate and others will not. Ultimately it is another resource like any alternative crop that may help keep producers on the land.
In his annual “State of the University” address President Chapman again indicated the value of an “engaged” university. To this end the CGREC has invited faculty and students from other departments on campus to participate in our research program as well as our annual report and winter “Grass-n-Beef Research Review.” We have always felt that the expertise these faculty and students can bring to the Coteau is very valuable and we will continue to look for ways to enhance their participation in our many programs.
I hope you find this year’s CGREC annual report useful and informative. If you have any questions about the Center and its research program please contact us at the phone number listed or via e-mail (see bottom of page 2). We are always looking for input on current research and on problems facing the producers of the region so we can make our research program as beneficial as possible to those who make their homes in this area.
Rural North Dakota is experiencing changes which will require the input of more than the traditional agricultural scientist. These changes bring with them changes in the personal lives of those who reside in these areas. The University needs a center that can bring together those at NDSU who are trained to deal with these types of "rural problems" and the people of the area who have these needs.
With the development of the Natural Resources Center the CGREC will work with other organizations such as the Leopold Center Ames, Iowa to encourage visiting scientists and students to come to the Center to study the unique resources of the area and to add their expertise to answer questions on natural resource management in this part of the Northern Great Plains.
The development of the center would also provide an opportunity for scientists from foreign countries to come to this region to study and learn from the work being done here by other researchers. The presence of Dr. Xuejun Dong on our staff provides the opportunity for more visiting scholars from China.
The CGREC will work within the collage of Agriculture and throughout NDSU to develop intern programs to allow students and faculty to spend time at the Center experiencing hands on learning of natural resource inventory and management techniques. Students with interests in fields such as soils, botany, plant and animal ecology, animal science, wildlife, air and water quality, rural sociology, agricultural economics, any many others would have a Center to which they could come and spend time with faculty applying what they have studied at NDSU.
Following the establishment of a Center of excellence for Natural Resources funding would be sought to establish an endowment to fund a program which would allow a visiting scholar in some field of natural resources to come to the Center and work with faculty and students for a few days to a week. These could be seminars and field workshops or for-credit educational experiences on various aspects of natural resources.