About the Center

The Need for Native Grasses


Native grasslands, once a significant component of Eastern landscapes, have been reduced more than any other ecosystem in North America. These grasslands included extensive prairies, pine and oak savannas, oak woodlands, and cedar glades, each with especially adapted flora and fauna. 

Other grasslands, however, remain an important and viable component of regional landscapes. Approximately 51 million acres of pasture and hay lands occur in the Mid-South alone, forming the majority of non-forested cover within the region. Grasslands also occur on reclaimed surface mines, military training areas, and as small but important features within row crop dominated landscapes (e.g., grassed waterways, field buffers, and filter strips).

In recent years, a number of opportunities to incorporate native grasses into various management systems have been proposed. These include silvopastures, traditional forage production for hay and pasture, soil conservation, surface mine reclamation, and wildlife habitat. More recently, use of native grasses as biofuels feedstock has become an important issue.

In order to improve deployment of native grasses and to ensure optimum ecological benefits are realized, better information is needed in a number of areas. Our Center, which is the first of its kind east of the Great Plains, is committed to filling that need.

Center Director



Collaborators


The work of the Center has been conducted through engagement with numerous collaborators from a broad range of disciplines and organizations. Those listed here have been involved in various projects and initiatives associated with the Center over the past 4-5 years.

Fred L. Allen, Professor Emeritus, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee. Dr. Allen is an accomplished plant breeder and is working on efforts to develop improved bluestem and switchgrass cultivars. 

Roger D. ApplegateProgram Leader, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Adjunct Faculty, University of Tennessee. Dr. Applegate has an extensive background working with northern bobwhite and other grassland birds and collaborates with the Center on a number of research projects in these areas. 

Amanda J. AshworthResearch Soil Scientist, Agricultural Research Service, USDA. Dr. Ashworth has worked with the Center since 2010 and has made numerous scientific contributions to improved switchgrass production and continues to work on projects that improve our understanding of soil-plant relationships for native grasses. 

Gary E. BatesProfessor and Director, Beef and Forage Center, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee. Dr. Bates, Tennessee’s Forage Extension Specialist, has provided leadership to numerous efforts related to improved forage management within Tennessee and beyond. He has been engaged in numerous research and outreach projects with the Center since its inception in 2006. 

Ernest C. BernardProfessor, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, University of Tennessee. Dr. Bernard, a widely recognized expert in entomology is collaborating with the Center on research examining key invertebrate populations involved in nutrient cycling within native grass stands. 

Chad BitlerResearch Scientist, Greenacres Foundation. Chad leads the research program at the Greenacres Foundation in Ohio and is collaborating with the Center on several studies focused on improved establishment of native grasses. 

Mike BlackDirector, Shortleaf Pine Initiative. Mike has led the Shortleaf Pine Initiative since shortly after its inception in 2014. In that role, he has supported the work of the Center, especially in the area of woodlands restoration and conservation. 

Christopher N. Boyer, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Tennessee. Dr. Boyer, an ag economist with a focus in the area of beef production, has worked on a number of projects in collaboration with the Center focused on analyses of the economics of forage production with native grasses. 

Kyle A. Brazil, Conservation Delivery Coordinator, Central Hardwoods Joint Venture.  Dr. Brazil has a strong background in conservation, especially with northern bobwhite and other grassland birds and has conducted research on working lands conservation and economics of such systems. 

Byron R. Buckley, Post-doctoral Research Associate, Center for Native Grasslands Management, University of Tennessee. Dr. Buckley completed his doctoral research at Texas Tech University studying northern bobwhite. Currently he is working with the Center on the analysis and of several projects focused on grassland bird demography in native grass production systems. 

David A. BuehlerProfessor, Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee. Dr. Buehler is a nationally and internationally recognized expert on avian ecology and has an active research program dealing with monitoring and modeling avian population dynamics in native grasslands. 

David M. ButlerAssociate Professor, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee. Dr. Butler, whose research focuses on organic production systems, is collaborating with the Center on a research project examining the role of mycorrhizae in native grass forage production systems. 

Joseph D. ClarkBranch Chief, Southern Appalachian Field Branch, USGS. Dr. Clark is a highly accomplished scientist with a strong background in wildlife demographics.  He has collaborated with the Center on numerous wildlife demographics studies including those on northern bobwhite and other grassland birds. 

Wayne K. ClatterbuckProfessor, Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee. Dr. Clatterbuck, Forestry Extension Specialist at UT, is one of the nation’s leading experts on upland silviculture. He has collaborated with the Center on oak woodland and savannah restoration research and education projects and also has an active research program focused on shortleaf pine.  

Bridgett E. CostanzoWorking Lands for Wildlife Coordinator – Eastern US, Natural Resources Conservation Service. Bridgett has been working on research and outreach initiatives with the Center that are improving our delivery and understanding of working lands conservation for eastern grasslands. 

Jennifer M. DeBruynAssociate Professor, Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, University of Tennessee. Dr. DeBruyn, whose research focuses on soil microbial ecology, is collaborating with the Center on a research project examining the role of soil microbial communities in native grass forage production systems. 

Andrew P. GriffithAssociate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Tennessee. Dr. Griffith, an Ag Economics Extension Specialist with a focus on beef production, has worked on a number of projects in collaboration with the Center focused on analyses of the economics of forage production with native grasses. 

Dennis W. Hancock, Professor, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, University of Georgia. Dr. Hancock, who has served as Georgia’s Forage Extension Specialist since 2006 (more recently has become the Director of the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center in Wisconsin), has worked with the Center and other partners on research and outreach for improved establishment of native grass forages. 

Craig A. HarperProfessor, Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee. Dr. Harper, Wildlife Extension Specialist at UT, is one of the nation’s leading experts on managing early successional habitat. He has collaborated with the Center on numerous research and outreach projects since 2006 including oak woodland and savannah restoration, grazing, and northern bobwhite management. 

Jef L. HodgesDeputy Interim Director and Grassland Coordinator, National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. Jef has a strong and rich background in grasslands conservation.  In his role at NBCI, he brings the benefit of that experience to a number of collaborative conservation and outreach efforts with the Center. 

Sindhu JagadammaAssistant Professor, Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, University of Tennessee. Dr. Jagadamma, whose research focuses on soil carbon dynamics, is collaborating with the Center on several research projects examining native grass forage production systems. 

John A. JenningsProfessor, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Dr. Jennings, Arkansas’ Forage Extension Specialist, has provided leadership to numerous efforts related to improved forage management not only in Arkansas, but throughout the eastern US. He has collaborated on outreach efforts with native grass forages, especially on improved establishment practices. 

Keith D. JohnsonProfessor, Department of Agronomy, Purdue University. Dr. Johnson, Forage Extension Specialist for Indiana, is collaborating with the Center on a large-scale, mutli-year grazing systems demonstration project in southern Indiana. 

Charles KwitAssistant Professor, Departments of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee. Dr. Kwit is a plant ecologist and has worked with the Center on projects examining restoration of native plant communities associated with oak woodlands and savannahs as well as evaluating pollinator community response to switchgrass biomass production. 

Christopher M. LitumaAssistant Professor, Davis College, Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia University.  Dr. Lituma has worked with the Center on a variety of projects including those focused on grazing native grass forages, biomass production, and the wildlife response to these production systems. 

M. Landon MarksRegional Extension Agent, Animal Science and Forages, Alabama Cooperative Extension.  Landon works in northern Alabama on forage and animal production Extension. He has collaborated with the Center and other partners on improved establishment of native grass forages. 

James A. MartinAssociate Professor, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia. Dr. Martin is a nationally recognized expert on northern bobwhite population ecology and management. He is collaborating with the Center on northern bobwhite research in the context of working lands where native grasses are being used for pasture. 

Doug B. MitchellGraduate Research Assistant, Center for Native Grasslands Management, Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee. Doug is pursuing his doctorate with research focused on northern bobwhite demography in the context of grazed native grass and tall fescue pastures. He is also studying response of nesting grassland passerines. 

John J. MorganDirector, National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, Adjunct Faculty, University of Tennessee. John has an extensive background working with northern bobwhite and working lands conservation. He collaborates with the Center on a number of research and outreach projects in these areas. 

Harley D. NaumannAssistant Professor, Division of Plant Sciences, University of Missouri. Dr. Naumann is a plant physiologist and has collaborated on evaluations of native grass forages including an emerging, large-scale forage systems project that examines use of warm-season perennial natives within tall fescue-dominated pasture systems. 

Renata Nave OakesAssociate Professor, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee. Dr. Nave, an accomplished forage agronomy researcher, has collaborated on research addressing water-use efficiency of native grasses in pasture settings.  

Megan E. O’RourkeAssociate Professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech. Dr. O’Rourke is an agroecologist who has conducted extensive research on the conservation of pollinators within ag production systems. She is working with the Center on a multi-faceted research and outreach effort focused on improved biodiversity and pollinator habitat within forage production systems. 

Justin D. RhinehartAssociate Professor, Department of Animal Science, University of Tennessee. Dr. Rhinehart, Livestock Extension Specialist at UT, has collaborated on research comparing warm-season forage options, including native grasses, that can improve drought resiliency of eastern pasture systems. 

Jonathan D. RichwineGraduate Research Assistant, Center for Native Grasslands Management, Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee. Johnny is pursuing his doctorate with research focused on use of winter annuals to extend grazing seasons in native grass pastures and incorporation of high diversity mixes in native grass pastures to enhance ecosystems services. 

S. Ray Smith, Professor, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky. Dr. Smith, Forage Extension Specialist for Kentucky, has provided leadership to numerous efforts related to improved forage management and has become recognized internationally for his expertise. He has collaborated with the Center grazing research and outreach efforts with native grass forages. 

Michael C. StambaughAssociate Research Professor, School of Natural Resources, University of Missouri. Dr. Stambaugh is an accomplished researcher with specific expertise in dendrochronology and fire ecology. He has worked with the Center a long-term study of oak woodland and savannah restoration. 

Keagan J. SwillingGraduate Research Assistant, Center for Native Grasslands Management, Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee. Keagan is pursuing his doctorate with research focused on improved establishment of native grass pastures and incorporation of high diversity mixes in native grass pastures to enhance ecosystems services. 

Virginia R. SykesAssistant Professor, Department of Animal Science, University of Tennessee. Dr. Sykes has a research interest in agroecology and is collaborating on research examining improved establishment of native grasses and enhanced biodiversity within native grass forage production systems. 

Jason E. Tower, Superintendent, Southern Indiana Purdue Ag Center, Purdue University. Jason initiated a large-scale, mutli-year grazing systems demonstration project at SIPAC that includes native grass forage components. 

Benjamin F. TracyAssociate Professor and Associate Director of Undergraduate Programs, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech. Dr. Tracy has conducted extensive research on improved plant diversity within forage production systems. He is working with the Center on a multi-faceted research and outreach effort focused on improved biodiversity and pollinator habitat within forage production systems. 

Andrew L. Vander YachtResearch Specialist, Department of Forestry, Michigan State University.  Dr. Vander Yacht worked with the Center over an 8-year period conducting research on oak woodland and savannah restoration. 

Forbes R. Walker, Professor, Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, University of Tennessee. Dr. Walker, Environmental Soils Extension Specialist, is a well-known expert on soil health with ag production systems. He has collaborated with the Center on research and outreach activities focused on improved pasture management that, in turn, provide benefits to overall soil and water health.