Building Cost-Effective Prairie

Prairie strip
Land Management

Title:  Building cost-effective prairie for multiple nutrient reduction practices

Location:  ISU Northeast Research and Demonstration Farm

Time Period:  2016-2019

Research Team:  Tallgrass Prairie Center, Justin Meissen, Laura Jackson, and Ashley Kittle

Project Description:  The contour prairie strip reduces surface nutrient runoff and enhances other ecosystem services but conservation agency staff, professional farm managers and other technical service providers may be reluctant to recommend prairie contour strips to land managers due to lack of confidence in a successful outcomes. We assessed how seed mix design and establishment management can increase cost-effectiveness and ensure reliably successful outcomes in nutrient reducing prairie plantings by comparing native plant establishment and cost effectiveness with and without first-year mowing for three different seed mixes that differ in grass to forb ratios. Our findings show that diverse, moderately priced seed mixes with a balanced seeding rate of grasses to forbs (1:1) produce nutrient reducing prairies with the most additional conservation benefits at reasonable cost. When paired with first year mowing management, these benefits accrue faster.

Publications:  Meissen, J. C., Glidden, A. J., Sherrard, M. E., Elgersma, K. J., & Jackson, L. L. (2019). Seed mix design and first year management influence multifunctionality and cost‐effectiveness in prairie reconstruction. Restoration Ecology. In press.

Funders:  Iowa Nutrient Research Center, Farm Service Agency

Disclaimer:  This is an active research site, please contact the research team prior to planning any site visits.