A healthy agro-ecosystem is critical to productive, stable rangeland. Land managers trying to restore an ecosystem and productivity must understand it requires a different process of allocating resources under differing situations, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research ecologist.
Dr. Richard Teague, AgriLife Research rangeland ecology and management scientist in Vernon, is developing a database that can aid producers in calculating how different management techniques will provide the best and most sustainable resource and economic results.
In his study, Teague is measuring and documenting the effects of different range management strategies on critical natural resources. To improve their situation, he said, landowners must first understand what is necessary to make changes.
“We are studying how conservation award-winning ranch managers do it,” Teague said. “In the process, we are also finding that ranchers who have improved the condition of the range vegetation and soils have increased productivity and have been less impacted by the bad drought we are currently experiencing.”
The Texas section of the Society for Range Management recently presented the conservation ranch award to a rancher who uses a very simple four-pasture management strategy with a growing season rest every three to four years, Teague said. The rancher achieved good conservation, productivity and economic results despite the bad drought – an excellent example of successful use of planned, time-controlled grazing that every rancher would find very easy to manage.
“If you look at successful managers, the leading people exceed the average by a margin and they do that by the way they allocate resources, use different techniques and adapt as things change,” Teague said.
He said his studies, which are on the landscape level instead of the small plot level, are taking place on ranches with similar vegetation – most east of Wichita Falls. Ranches in three contiguous counties with award-winning management were selected.
The study is examining the impacts of changing key management elements and planning ahead to decrease the impact of different circumstances such as dry or wet seasons, wildfires and changing weather patterns. It is designed to answer questions such as: “How good is any management option ecologically, economically and socially?” and “Within what context is it most likely to be successful?”