Wildfires in the Great Basin have resulted in widespread loss of Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ssp. wyomingensis Beetle & Young), an ecologically important shrub that has proven difficult to establish from seed. We sought to identify optimal seeding practices for Wyoming big sagebrush in the context of postfire seeding operations involving rangeland drills. In an experiment replicated at three burned sites in the northern Great Basin, we compared Wyoming big sagebrush establishment across treatments differing by seed delivery technique, timing, and rate of seed application. A seed mix containing bunchgrasses was drill-seeded in alternate rows using one of two drill-types (conventional or minimum-till), and a mix containing sagebrush was either delivered by drill to the soil surface in remaining rows or broadcast by hand (simulating aerial seeding) following drilling in fall or winter. Drill-delivery of sagebrush seed was accompanied by drag chains (conventional drill) or imprinter wheels (minimum-till drill) to improve seed-soil contact and was carried out at multiple seeding rates (ca. 50,250, and 500 pure live seed m-2). During 2 yr following seeding, sagebrush establishment was lower at two sites (yr 1: ≤ 1.2 plants m-2; yr 2: ≤ 0.8 plants m-2) compared with a third site (yr 1: ≤ 4.1 plants m-2; yr 2: ≤ 2.0 plants m-2) where treatment differences were more pronounced and significant. Wherever density differed between treatments, it was consistently higher in certain treatment levels (minimum-till > conventional drill, drill-delivery > broadcast-delivery, fall broadcast > winter broadcast, and higher rates > lower rates). Densities declined between years at two sites, but we did not find evidence that declines were due to densitydependent mortality. Results indicate that seeding success can likely be enhanced by using a minimum-till imprinter seeding method and using seeding rates higher than typical postfire seeding recommendations for Wyoming big sagebrush.
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