The iconic image of a cattleman gazing out on the slowly waving grasses of the Great Plains while sitting on horseback is a picture familiar to everyone. Nowadays, the cattle industry looks a lot different from that charming depiction, but it’s not only the tools and technologies of modern cattle ranching that have transformed: drought, flooding, extreme heat, subzero temperatures and other changes in the climate can threaten this billion-dollar industry. For this reason, a team of researchers are working hard to find solutions so that cattle ranchers in Kansas and the rest of the southern Great Plains can better adapt to any future climate extremes in their grazing operations. It’s all part of a $9.6 million, five-year grant from the US Department of Agriculture that partners KSU scientists with other researchers from Oklahoma State University, University of Oklahoma, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Noble Foundation, and Tarleton State University. Dr. Dan Devlin, KCARE Director, is the overall project director.
The team works with ranchers and farmers to evaluate management practices and then use those findings to suggest changes for better resiliency. Specifically, the project focuses on improved grazing management, increased water use efficiency, more diversified forage sources, development of multiple marketing options, strategic drought planning, improved soil and water quality, and ways to provide more stable farm household incomes.
Over half of the nation’s beef supply is produced on permanent grazing lands and wheat pasture in the Southern Great Plains, including Kansas. Protecting this vital supply from the stresses of climate variability is one key to ensuring the success of this region’s ranchers as well as protecting our nation’s food security.Chuck Rice, or the soilcarboncenter.k-state.edu/