The University of Arizona

Crested wheatgrass and shrub response to continuous or rotational grazing.

R.F. Angell


A four-year study was conducted to investigate effects of continuous and short duration grazing in spring on standing crop and tiller density of crested wheatgrass [Agropyron desertorum (Fisch. ex Link) Schult], along with changes in cover and density of Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. subsp. wyomingensis Beetle and Young) and green rabbitbrush [Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus (Hook.) Nutt.]. Eight pastures were each stocked with 10 steers (224 kg) beginning in early May. Four grazing treatments consisted of continuous grazing at 0.6 AUM/ha (CONT) or short duration grazing management at 0.6, 0.9, and 1.2 AUM/ha for LOW, MED, and HIGH treatments, respectively. After 4 years, mean tiller density was greatest on LOW paddocks (P = 0.10) (707 tillers/m2). Tiller density on HIGH paddocks did not differ (P > 0.05) from CONT. Density of large (> 15-cm tall) Wyoming big sagebrush increased (P less than or equal to 0.05) across years, but did not vary (P > 0.05) among treatments, at about 9 plants/100 m2. Sagebrush plants < 15-cm tall responded differently (P = 0.02) in CONT compared to HIGH. Small sagebrush density increased under short duration grazing at doubled stocking rate (HIGH) compared to CONT, but LOW and MED did not differ from CONT. We concluded that short duration rotation grazing at a conventional stocking rate decreased neither tillering nor yield of crested wheatgrass. Shrub density and cover changes on LOW were similar to CONT. It does appear, however, that short duration grazing at the doubled stocking rate has the potential to limit crested wheatgrass productivity over time because of enhanced sagebrush seedling survival.


variation;standing crop;Agropyron desertorum;continuous grazing;Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus;rain;stocking rate;rotational grazing;steers;tillers;Artemisia tridentata;plant density;biomass;canopy

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