Rangeland Ecology & Management

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Seeded rock structure with new perennial grasses in Arizona

Cultural Methods

Range Seeding

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Downed woody debris can provide physical structures for capturing seeds and ameliorate harsh environmental conditions for enhanced seed germination and seedling recruitment.

Photo by: Austin Rutherford
  • Written by Austin Rutherford, University of Arizona


    Range seeding, or rangeland seeding, is a tool for improving, developing, or altering a site's existing plant community through the application of seed. Seeding is typically done at the beginning or prior to the regional rainy season for restoring a portion of degraded rangeland to meet a specific management goal (e.g., forage production, erosion control). A site may be “prepped” prior to seeding by targeted grazing of weeds, amending soils with nutrients and microbes, removing invasive plants, or disking/tilling to rough up the soil surface to increase potential seed germination. Following a brush management treatment, range seeding can be used if seed sources of the desirable plant community has been lost, or in very low abundance. Areas impacted by wildfire or treated with prescribed burning can also be improved with range seeding. It is suggested to use a regionally appropriate and diverse seed mix of multiple grass, forb, and shrub species that are active in multiple different seasons (e.g., summer and spring) and have a variety of flower colors and sizes to maximize biodiversity and restoration success. There are many potential benefits for implementing range seeding including increased forage production, erosion control, wildlife and pollinator habitat, improving soil health, and invasive plant species resistance.

    Most common seeding methods are broadcast and drill seeding. Broadcast seeding is a method where seed is spread and applied directly to the ground typically with a tractor, UTV/ATV, or by hand. In large area applications, broadcast seeding is used where terrain is too steep or rocky for drill seeding. Drill seeding uses machinery, often termed a “rangeland drill”, to place the seed in the soil at a determined depth in small furrows. Depth and rate of seeding will depend on the chosen species in the mix, where germination success can vary widely at depth between forbs, grasses, and shrubs. A bulking agent like rice hulls added to a seed mix can be used to account for differences in seed sizes and weights for impeding separation and aiding the even distribution of seeds.

    Fertile islands and seedballs are also potential range seeding options, especially in more arid regions. Fertile Islands are a technique to improve seeding and germination success by selecting specific locations within a pasture (e.g., under shrub canopies, depressions, and rocky areas) with an increased potential for soil moisture accumulation and/or protection from insects and animals that can consume the seeds or seedlings. After seedling establishment, fertile islands can provide a future seed source for spread beyond the original seeded area. Seed balls are, as the name implies, ball-like structures of the seed mix combined with clay, compost, and water. The dry seed balls are spread in a treatment area and remain until sufficient rainfall occurs to remove the clay, where the seed makes soil contact during high soil moisture conditions with added nutrients from the compost. Seed balls can be relatively cheap to make and help deter loss of seed to wind and ants. 


  • Dr. Elise Gornish, Assistant Extension Specialist in Restoration Ecology with The University of Arizona outlines findings and lessons learned from rangeland reseeding trials.

  • The rangeland drill has proved useful for seeding perennial plants following fire in the Intermountain West. Developments such as multiple seed boxes and drill-broadcasting units have allowed greater use of native plants for post-fire seeding, and soil disturbance can now be reduced through minimum-till drills. Jeff Ott reports on experiments carried out by the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, testing the effectiveness of different rangeland drill techniques for seeding common native species of Wyoming sagebrush communities in the northern Great Basin.


  • University of Arizona Cooperative Extension's easy to use platform to investigate potential species based on site characteristics and management…
  • Web Soil Survey (WSS) provides soil data and information produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey. It is operated by the USDA Natural Resource…
  • An interactive Google map tool that allows the user to explore soil survey areas. View soil map units and detailed descriptions. The app can run on de…

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