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MTPMC

Bridger Plant Materials Center (MTPMC)
Serving the States of Montana and Wyoming

Established: 1959
Size: 130 acres
PMC Operation: NRCS
Land Ownership: Conservation Districts in Montana and Wyoming

Image of combine harvesting native grass with mountains in the background

The Bridger Montana Plant Materials Center (MTPMC) provides plant solutions for conservation issues across the diverse ecosystems of Montana and Wyoming. The service area topography ranges from the mountains in western Montana and Wyoming, to rolling plains, desert basins, and plateaus in the remaining areas of the states. Agriculture, resource extraction, and tourism are the basic industries, and affect the majority of the land area in Montana and Wyoming. The overall objective of the MTPMC is to select well adapted plant materials and develop improved conservation practice technologies for enhanced natural resource protection.

Plant selection and technology development objectives of the MTPMC include improving rangeland health, enriching soil health with cover crops, enhancing pollinator habitat, increasing woody plant establishment, improving and diversifying native plant communities after disturbance, and enhancing the conservation benefits on critical areas and salt-affected sites.  Active areas of research and testing related to these conservation priorities include native species seed source testing, developing establishment technologies for pollinator species, cover crop varietal testing, species selection and increase, plant community restoration after forest fires or invasive species removal, and increasing forage production. MTPMC continually works on developing propagation and production techniques for native species. MTPMC addresses soil quality with projects addressing the testing and use of cover crops, revegetation of acid soils, and increasing the productivity of salt-affected sites. In addition, MTPMC provides training and outreach activities for NRCS staff, agencies, the public, and underserved groups.

New plant solutions are being developed for establishing forbs in conservation plantings, low-water landscaping, restoring woody plants to native range and riparian areas, propagating native species and culturally significant plants, and reclaiming areas disturbed by mining, wildfire, and road construction. The staff also produces and provides breeder and foundation class seed in support of commercial production of its releases.

The Bridger Plant Materials Center has selected and released 32 conservation grasses, forbs, shrubs, and trees, which are extensively used throughout the northern plains and intermountain West.

Highlights


RANGELAND HEALTH

  • Bluebunch wheatgrass initial evaluation planting comparing the performance of 65 seed sources for use in eastern Montana and Wyoming.
  • Comparative study testing the performance of Plant Materials selection against local seed sources for restoration of weed invaded areas.
  • Native grass species seed age study investigating stand establishment and productivity as seed lots age.
  • Field plantings testing species and planting technologies to improve and diversify rangeland.
  • Development of range seeding calculator in cooperation with NRCS field staff.

SOIL HEALTH

  • Malt barley-cover crop mix study investigating the effects of a cover crop mix on malt barley production and quality.
  • Participation in two national cover crop studies testing 8 species and 58 varieties.
  • January frost seeding study testing pre-growing season planting options for cover crops.
  • Cover crop seeding date study investigating optimum seeding dates for select cover crops.
  • Varietal testing and seeding rate studies with mung bean, cow pea, and fava bean.
  • Development of cover crop seeding calculator.

POLLINATOR HABITAT ENHANCEMENT

  • Selected and released six native forb species for use in pollinator habitat enhancement plantings.
  • Wildflower initial evaluation planting completed and multiple forb species with pollinator enhancement applications currently in seed increase.
  • Study testing the ratio of grasses to forbs in a seed mix to ensure adequate sustainable forb component in established stands.
  • Alternate-row pollinator planting (planting grass and forbs in separate rows) and forb seeding date studies to test methods of increasing pollinator species establishment, persistence, and flowering abundance.
  • Montana Native Plants for Pollinator-Friendly Plantings highlights the importance of establishing nectar and pollen sources, shelter and breeding environments for pollinators and other beneficial insects.
  • Webinar training, document development, and field plantings for creating and enhancing pollinator-friendly plantings.

WOODY PLANT SELECTION AND ESTABLISHMENT

  • Release of 10 woody species for various conservation applications such as rangeland practices, windbreaks and shelterbelts, living snow fences, and mined land reclamation.
  • Completion of plains cottonwood deep pot study in cooperation with ARS – Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory testing container sizes for enhancing cottonwood establishment in riparian corridors.
  • Completion of bur oak and plains cottonwood deep pot studies for dryland applications.
  • On-going research with ARS – Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory on tree and shrub establishment after Russian olive removal.
  • Testing of woody plants on a salt-affected site resulting in new salinity tolerance guidelines provided in Technical Note titled The Salinity Tolerance of 18 Trees and Shrubs Tested on a Heavy-Textured Soil in South-Central Montana

CRITICAL AREAS AND SALT-AFFECTED SITES

  • Release of seven grass and three woody plant selections with various levels of demonstrated salinity tolerance.
  • Release of ‘Critana’ thickspike wheatgrass, ‘Pryor’ slender wheatgrass, and ‘Wytana’ four-wing saltbush specifically for mined land reclamation applications. 
  • A 22-year collaborative effort with the Deer Lodge Valley Conservation District, State of Montana, and EPA to restore plant communities damaged by smelting operations in the Anaconda, Montana area resulting in seven native plant releases and numerous new plant-based establishment technologies.
  • Thirty years of interagency cooperation with the National Park Service on the propagation, production, and establishment of indigenous plant materials to revegetate roadside disturbances from highway reconstruction projects and weed invasion.
  • Produced Improving Sage Grouse Habitat through Revegetation and Rangeland Management to promote sage grouse conservation in areas dominated by sagebrush.
  • Collaborative research partnership with ARS Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory to develop revegetation techniques after removal of Russian olive from Montana and Wyoming riparian areas.
  • Trial plantings of cool and warm season cover crops on salt-affected sites.
  • Webinar training for NRCS staff on plant materials for salt-affected sites.

Bridger Plant Materials Center
98 South River Rd
Bridger, MT 59014-9718
Telephone: 406-662-3579
Fax: 855-510-7028