Interaction of Simulated Drought
and Grazing on Mixed Grass Prairie
Drought is a common climatic phenomena of the Great Plains including North Dakota. By examining the last 100 years of climatic data, two and four years of every ten are ecologically and/or economically considered drought years in eastern and western North Dakota respectively. Despite the recent wet climatic cycle in the northern Great Plains, the start of the next drought may only be a few weeks away.
Grasslands in North Dakota are important to the economic well-being of the livestock industry. Nearly 80% of the diets of cattle in this state are made up of forages of which grazed forages comprises the majority of this diet fraction. Controlling drought's effects on plant communities may be tempered through proper livestock management (Olson et al. 1985). The proper management of livestock should optimize forage produced in drought by maintaining plant numbers and structures such as leaves, roots, etc. necessary for growth, and increase the amount of effective precipitation for plant use through soil surface management (Rauzi and Smika 1963). Livestock management should also allow a more rapid recovery of plant communities hence forage following a drought event.
The objectives of this research are two-fold. The first objective is to simulate drought on properly grazed rangeland and measure the effects on herbage production, basal plant cover and broad-leaved plants. The second objective will be to monitor the recovery period of the affected plant community to pre-drought conditions. The simulated drought period will be two consecutive years followed by an expected recovery period of two or more years.