AMES, Iowa – The Conservation Learning Group, a think tank based at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and dedicated to addressing conservation and environmental challenges, recently published “What to Expect: Establishing Prairie Vegetation on Your Farm,” an infographic designed to inform farmers and landowners about the process and benefits of creating perennial vegetation areas that aid in soil health and water quality improvement and offer habitat for a diversity of wildlife.
“A key message of this infographic is to encourage consultation with one of the many experts in Iowa who understand the process and timeline for prairie establishment,” said Matthew Helmers, director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center and Dean's Professor in Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Perennial plantings provide tremendous benefits to our land and water, but farmers and researchers have learned many lessons over the years, and it just makes good sense to build on that body of knowledge to help assure success with new plantings.”
The document highlights the use of in-field strips, edge-of-field plantings and conversion of marginal or unprofitable areas within row crop fields for establishment of perennial prairie. Noted short-term benefits include improved runoff management, water infiltration and possible benefits for overall field profitability, with mid- and longer-term establishment of wildlife habitat, forage and even hay resources.
In addition, the document includes timelines about what to expect year-by-year in terms of maintenance effort, mowing, herbicide, prescribed burns and haying after the prairie is well-established. Resources to learn more about prairie plant identification are also included.
“Our goal with this infographic is to provide a comprehensive first-look at prairie plantings and make it easy for producers and landowners to learn about the process, access to cost share options, and advice on where to learn more,” continued Helmers, who is also an agricultural engineering specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach.
The infographic was produced in collaboration with Iowa Learning Farms, North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, Consortium for Cultivating Human and Naturally reGenerative Enterprises, and Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips, including information from the Tallgrass Prairie Center.
"What to Expect: Establishing Prairie Vegetation on Your Farm" is available for free download.
Conservation Learning Group is a collaborative team established to advance training, outreach and research across land uses and production systems to increase overall sustainability of agricultural and natural systems for multiple generations to come. CLG draws on experts in various disciplines to deliver engaging science-based outreach to farmers, agricultural advisers, landowners, decision makers, youth and communities.
Shareable photo: Field of perennials.