FRUITLAND, Iowa – One of the unique assets of Iowa State University’s Muscatine Island Research and Demonstration Farm, located along the Mississippi River in southeast Iowa, is a remnant sand prairie.
This natural landscape has never been plowed for agriculture, and is home to some rare plant species and wildlife, including prickly pear cactus and sand bur-reed.
However, the sand prairie has become invaded over time by several species of trees, including cedar, sumac and elm.
To make better use of this property, a cleanup day is planned for Oct. 12. Trees will be cut, and help will be needed to haul cut pieces to a burn pile. All of the tools needed will be provided, but volunteers should bring their own work gloves if possible.
“The goal is to pretty much clear out all of those invasive trees, and preserve the landscape for research and demonstrations,” said Dominic Snyder, agricultural specialist with Iowa State University Research Farms.
About 10 people have already committed to help, but Snyder said it would be ideal to have even more. Volunteer hours can be used for Master Gardeners.
Adam Janke, assistant professor and extension wildlife specialist at Iowa State, said most sand prairies that once existed in Iowa are gone, and that the Muscatine property offers a unique opportunity for conservation and to preserve an important part of Iowa’s ecological heritage.
“We estimate that over 99% of Iowa’s land where there was once prairie has been plowed at some time or another. So these remnant spots, which are often odd areas along railroads, cemeteries, or roads are really unique areas,” Janke said.
Snyder recommends that volunteers wear long pants and dress for the weather. The tasks involve manual labor.
Snyder asks that volunteers contact him in advance, so he can plan the lunch count, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Muscatine Island Research Farm is located at 111 N. St., Fruitland, Iowa.