Biology faculty, Scott Ferrenberg and Donovan Bailey, along with Akasha Faist (Animal and Range Science), Omar Holguin (Plant and Environmental Sciences), and Nicole Pietrasiak (Plant and Environmental Science) recently garnered funding from the USDA-AFRI program for their project entitled: “Investigating the role of the soil surface microbiome in germination, establishment, and growth of rangeland plants”.
Rangelands are the most pervasive land-use globally and most grazing occurs in drylands. Chronic aridity coupled with high interannual climate variability and low soil nutrient content in dry rangelands can limit production and promote transitions to degraded states. Efforts to restore plant cover and curb erosion often have low success rates. As a result, understanding how to utilize plant-soil interactions, such as with biocrusts, to promote plant cover is receiving greater attention. The research under this funded grant will quantify how biocrust-microbiome variation affects plant performance as a path toward promoting sustainable and economical practices that enhance plant growth in dry rangelands. This work will be conducted across the Colorado Plateau ecosystem which covers a northwestern New Mexico and is among the most heavily utilized rangelands in western North America.