Great Plains Grazing Quarterly eNewsletter

From the Director

Welcome to the Great Plains Grazing eNewsletter! The goal of the Great Plains Grazing project is to increase the resiliency of beef cattle operations on grazing lands and wheat pasture, both dual purpose and graze-out, so they can better sustain productivity in the future through a wide range of potential climate changes. The project team is working with ranchers and farmers to evaluate management practices and suggest changes for better resiliency related to:

  • Improved grazing management
  • Increased water use efficiency
  • More diversified forage sources
  • Development of multiple marketing options
  • Strategic drought planning
  • Improved soil and water quality
  • Ways to provide more stable farm household incomes

Our project team, consists of over 40 investigators from Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, University of Oklahoma, Tarleton State University, USDA-ARS and the Noble Foundation. As our project is moving forward and we are getting more accomplished I am getting more and more excited about the impact our project will have on the beef industry. 

Please check our project website for additional information on project accomplishments and plans. You may also want to join our mailing list for the latest news about the project research, events, and publications.

If you have any questions or would like additional information, feel free to contact me at or (785) 532-0393.

Tools and Apps

Field Photo for Android and  iPhone
FREE citizen scientist application from the Earth Observation Modeling Facility at the University of Oklahoma. Field Photo allows students, scientists, researches and citizens to take photographs of their environment, geotag them and add land cover metadata and field notes.  



Need help using Field Photo? Check out the user guide.

Field Photo Weekend

During May 23-25th, you can join a citizen science effort to document land cover and land use change by participating in our ninth "Field Photo Weekend".

All you have to do is take your camera or smartphone, find a landscape in your community (streams, lakes, rivers, reservoirs, a forest, a crop field, a pasture, etc.) and take a single photo or a panorama in four different directions (N, E, S, W) from where you are standing. After that you can either email your photos with your location to:, or upload them directly to the Earth Observation and Modeling Facility's photo archive. If you have a smartphone, you can use the “Field Photo” app. Be sure to add “#CoCoRaHSMay15” to your keywords. For detailed instructions, click here.

Field Photo Weekend is a partnership between CoCoRaHS, the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP) and the Earth Observation and Modeling Facility (EOMF) to help ground truth through photos, what is going on with our landscapes throughout the country. In a few weeks this weekend's photos will be posted and you'll be able to see your photos and those taken by other volunteers. Reference the “FIELD PHOTO WEEKENDS” page to see how to view the photos.

Thanks in advance for participating and have a great Memorial Day weekend!


In Case You Missed It

Recent articles, blog posts, and other timely info from our team.Weather and Agriculture: A Plains Perspective
March 2015 in Oklahoma: Cooler and Wetter, Warmer and Dryer
Posted April 14, 2015 by Albert Sutherland
March is a critical month in Oklahoma. It is the month when wheat and canola come out of dormancy. It’s the month when the risk of wildfires is highest more
Ag News and Views
Early Management Promotes Healthy Pasture
April, 2015 by Hugh Aljoe
The spring growing season is at hand. Therefore, it is time to develop management plans for our warm season pastures…read more


K-State Cattle Feeders College 
Date: May 14, 2015 3:30pm Scott County Indoor Arena and Activities Center 
610 E. Fairground Road, Scott City, KS

Joe Wolter, who has built a reputation for his work with horses and people, is the featured speaker. More information about Wolter is available at Cattle feeders and others are welcome to attend, but must pre-register. Learn more here
​Managing Drought and Recovery on the Ranch
Date: May 21, 2015 10:30 am - 3:00 pm Beaver County Fairgrounds, Beaver, OK

This workshop will feature information for ranchers who are dealing with long-term choices associated with drought, as well as drought recovery. Learn more here

Webinar Series Planned

Our new webinar series will start this fall. Join our mailing list to receive emails with dates and times to keep up to date on our research resources related to grazing in the Southern Great Plains Region.

Research Spotlight

Stocker cattle on wheat pasture: Can energy supplements affect methane emissions?
Grazing stockers on wheat pasture between November and March is a common practice in much of Texas, Oklahoma, southern Kansas, and certain other areas of the southern Great Plains. Since wheat pasture is very high in protein, producers often provide the grazing cattle with an energy supplement. This helps increase the animals’ rate of gain, increases the carrying capacity of the pasture, and reduces the incidence of bloat.

It is not known, however, whether energy supplements have any impact on the level of greenhouse gases emitted by the cattle. A new study by N. Andy Cole and Richard Todd, with the USDA-ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory in Bushland, Texas, and co-workers from USDA-ARS, West Texas A&M, and Texas A&M AgriLife Research-Amarillo, is designed to answer this question.

The scientists are testing corn and wheat midds fed as a supplement at 0.5% of body weight to 500 lb. stocker steers on wheat pasture in the Texas Panhandle. They are measuring forage digestibility, along with enteric methane production and carbon dioxide emission levels from individual steers using an automated GreenFeed system. Methane and carbon dioxide from the entire 35-acre grazing area were also determined using open path lasers and the eddy covariance method.

The results will add to the base of knowledge about the effects of different management practices on greenhouse gas emissions from cattle in a wheat pasture grazing system in the southern Great Plains.


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New Extension fact sheet
What's the Difference Between Weather and Climate?


Weather and climate are not independent. The averages of daily weather are used to monitor climate. Changes in climate lead to changes in weather patterns including extremes. An easy way to remember the differece is that climate is what you expect, like a hot summer, and weather is what you get, like a cool day in August.
Access to full publication

New article in Remote Sensing and the Environment
Dong, Jinwei, Xiangming Xiao, Pradeep Wagle, Geli Zhang, Yuting Zhou, Cui Jin, Margaret S. Torn, et al. 2015. “Comparison of Four EVI-Based Models for Estimating Gross Primary Production of Maize and Soybean Croplands and Tallgrass Prairie under Severe Drought.” Remote Sensing of Environment 162 (June): 154–68. doi:10.1016/j.rse.2015.02.022.


Accurate estimation of gross primary production (GPP) is critical for understanding ecosystem response to climate variability and change. Satellite-based diagnostic models, which use satellite images and/or climate data as input, are widely used to estimate GPP. Many models used the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to estimate the fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) by vegetation canopy (FPARcanopy) and GPP. Recently, the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) has been increasingly used to estimate the fraction of PAR absorbed by chlorophyll (FPARchl) or green leaves (FPARgreen) and to provide more accurate estimates of GPP in such models as the Vegetation Photosynthesis Model (VPM), Temperature and Greenness (TG) model, Greenness and Radiation (GR) model, and Vegetation Index (VI) model. Although these EVI-based models perform well under non-drought conditions, their performances under severe droughts are unclear. In this study, we run the four EVI-based models at three AmeriFlux sites (rainfed soybean, irrigated maize, and grassland) during drought and non-drought years to examine their sensitivities to drought. As all the four models use EVI for FPAR estimate, our hypothesis is that their different sensitivities to drought are mainly attributed to the ways they handle light use efficiency (LUE), especially water stress. The predicted GPP from these four models had a good agreement with the GPP estimated from eddy flux tower in non-drought years with root mean squared errors (RMSEs) in the order of 2.17 (VPM), 2.47 (VI), 2.85 (GR) and 3.10 g C m− 2 day− 1 (TG). But their performances differed in drought years, the VPM model performed best, followed by the VI, GR and TG, with the RMSEs of 1.61, 2.32, 3.16 and 3.90 g C m− 2 day− 1 respectively. TG and GR models overestimated seasonal sum of GPP by 20% to 61% in rainfed sites in drought years and also overestimated or underestimated GPP in the irrigated site. This difference in model performance under severe drought is attributed to the fact that the VPM uses satellite-based Land Surface Water Index (LSWI) to address the effect of water stress (deficit) on LUE and GPP, while the other three models do not have such a mechanism. This study suggests that it is essential for these models to consider the effect of water stress on GPP, in addition to using EVI to estimate FPAR, if these models are applied to estimate GPP under drought conditions.


Great Plains Grazing is a coordinated effort by a regional network of researchers and extension specialists to adapt grazing strategies to changing conditions.
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