Did you know that there are more acres of rangeland than any other category in Nebraska? Rangeland totals 24 million acres with an additional 1.5 million acres of land previously farmed and seeded back to grasses. Together, these grasslands occupy 52 percent of the state. That may be why so many students are drawn to compete in the Range Judging competitions as part of their FFA high school programs. This week, over 400 students and educators competed in the Area IV Range Judging contest in Merrick County. There were 182 seniors, 224 juniors and 16 educators registered for the event on Wednesday.
The contest rotates to different counties each year and tests participants on range plant identification, rangelands and plant community change, and range condition.
Plant Identification: The starting point for most range management decisions is knowing range plants by name and knowing their growth habits, livestock forage value, and other characteristics. Students are tested on plant names, whether it is a grass, forb, grass-like, shrub or cactus; annual, biennial or perennial; introduced or native; cool or warm-season; high, medium or low forage value; and if grasses are bunch, stolon, or rhizomatuous.
Plant Community Change: Rangeland is a specific kind of land on which the native vegetation is predominantly grasses, grass-like plants, forbs, or woody plants suitable for grazing or browsing by large herbivores. When properly managed, rangelands can be used on a sustainable basis for livestock production while providing high quality air and water, wood products, wildlife habitat, recreation and native plants. Students are tested on the life form, life span, origin, season of growth, livestock forage value, and growth form in grasses.
Range Condition: The range condition assessment is based on the ecological concept of plant succession; it is an “ecological rating” of the plant community on a particular site range site. The purpose of range condition determination is to compare the current status of the plant community in terms of the kinds and amounts of plants present.
AWARD WINNERS Students and adults who placed will receive their ribbons at the Range Management State Convention in Lincoln next month.
1st Place: Michael Gibbens, Sargent
2nd Place: Whitney Steckel, Loup County
3rd Place: Michaela Cunningham, Fullerton
4th Place: Trystan Bennett, Palmer
5th Place: Paul Sandoz, Loup County
1st Place: Taylor Ference, Loup City
2nd Place: Marissa Baker, St. Paul
3rd Place: Trent Marshall, Burwell
4th Place: Colby Mitchell, Burwell
5th Place: John Wetovick, Fullerton
1st Place: Loup County
2nd Place: Fullerton
3rd Place: Sargent
4th Place: Palmer
5th Place: Burwell
1st Place: Burwell
2nd Place: Fullerton
3rd Place: St. Paul
4th Place: Sargent
5th Place: Fullerton
1st Place: Dave Ference, Ord
2nd Place: Phil Simpson, Burwell
3rd Place: Tanner Dunbar, Loup County
4th Place: Mike Kozeal, Sargent
5th Place: Dennis Mottl, Palmer
Participating Schools: Ansley, Aurora, Arcadia, Boone Central, Burwell, Central Valley, Central City, Cross County, Fullerton, Kearney, Loup City, Loup County, Osceola, Ord, Palmer, Riverside, Sargent, St. Edward, St. Paul, Twin River and Wood River.
Hosts The competition was hosted by the Central Platte Natural Resources District, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the University of Nebraska Merrick County Extension Office.