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Au Sable Conservation Biology Professor Studies Native Plant Use in Livestock Foraging

Mar 26, 2013

Sam Riffell, Mississippi State University Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management and Au Sable Conservation Biology and Research Methods Professor, was recently featured in the Mississippi Agricultural News for his research that native grasses have ecological benefits for livestock foraging.

The study indicates that native grasses are more drought-resistant (require less water inputs), require less fertilizer, and build up larger root systems that sequester carbon better than bermudagrass, a common, exotic grass used for agricultural livestock foraging throughout Mississippi. 

Riffell is also exploring if native grasses provide habitat for breeding birds better than bermudagrass, creating the potential to expand native habitat for wildlife.

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Here are a few quotes from Riffell and his graduate research student, Adrian Monroe, about their research:

“The ecological advantages of native, warm-season grasses over bermudagrass are evident. Native grasses are more drought-tolerant, require less fertilizer, and remove carbon in their root systems.” (Riffell)

“It takes one to two years to establish native, warm-season grasses, so that’s an increase in opportunity costs. But the long-term savings may lie in the few [water and fertilizer] inputs.” (Riffell)

“Bermudagrass tends to restrict the movement and foraging of breeding birds. Native grasses may mimic prairies, which bunch grasses providing nesting structure and spaces for movement.” (Monroe)