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Planting Native Prairie Grass and Wildflowers with a Pheasants Forever Planting Machinge l Barry County Michigan

Prairie Conservation

 

The state of Michigan has only a few small remnants of its original grasslands, and many associated wildlife species are in trouble as a result. Since purchasing the property in 1998, the Institute has converted over 80 acres of fallow farm field into native, tall and short grass prairie habitat. The Institute is committed to using Michigan genotype seed whenever feasible and only introduces species that were historically found in Barry County.

 

Prairie Restoration l Prescribed Fire l Land Management l Pierce Cedar Creek Institute l A Kalamazoo Michigan Area Nature CenterPrairie Restoration l Planting Native Prairie l Land Management l Pierce Cedar Creek Institute l A Hastings Michigan Nature PreservePrairie Restoration l Native Prairie l Land Stewardship l Pierce Cedar Creek Institute l A Battle Creek Michigan Area Nature Center

The stewardship process of converting a fallow farm field into a prairie ecosystem is a multi-year process. It begins with the removal of existing vegetation through the application of herbicide. The removal of existing non-native vegetation allows native grass and flower seeds to access the space, light, nutrients, and water that would otherwise be unavailable. Other methods can also effectively remove existing vegetation, but herbicides have the added benefit of minimizing soil disturbance and preventing erosion. After a few herbicide applications, the field is ready for planting. Unlike the flower bulbs buried in the ground at home, prairie seeds are often planted right at the ground surface. These plants invest their energy in developing an extensive root system before their leaves and stems develop, and are typically quite discreet for the first year or two following planting. Once a deep root system is developed, the prairie grasses and wildflowers begin to visibly dominate the area. The planting will continue to mature over time as a result of natural disturbances and the recruiting of plants in their preferred microhabitats.

Wildlife Habitat l Native Prairie l Land Management l Pierce Cedar Creek Institute l A Grand Rapids Michigan Area Nature CenterWildlife Conservation l Native Prairie l Environmental Stewardship l Pierce Cedar Creek Institute l A Southwest Michigan Nature Center

The Institute stewardship staff manages prairie plantings with prescribed fires that are intentionally ignited under a strict set of weather and site conditions. The fires help reduce competition from non-native plants. Prior to widespread European settlement in West Michigan, fires were commonly ignited either by Native Americans or by lightning strikes. Because fires have been suppressed in our landscape for nearly 200 years in order to protect our homes and crops, Michigan’s prairies, savannas, and other fire-dependent ecosystems are quickly disappearing. The controlled fires help set back encroaching shrubs and trees, stimulate native plants while reducing competition from invasive plants, and fertilize the soil with ash.

 

To increase awareness and understanding of the historical and environmental value of native plants and provide a highly visual example of native plants and provide a highly visual example of the efforts taking place on more remote areas of the property, the Institute replaced the non-native grasses and invasive weeds with native prairie plantings on the Visitor Center berm in 2013, the Education Building berm in 2015, and the parking lot berm in 2016. Native plants are part of our natural heritage, and it is important to ensure they are preserved for the health and enjoyment of future generations.

Each of the three phases of this project was designed to be hands-on with a variety of people involved in the actual planting. Community involvement builds awareness of environmental issues as well as cultivates connections with the Institute.

 

Planting the Visitor Center berm | Pierce Cedar Creek Institute l A Grand Rapids Michigan Area Nature CenterA prairie comes to life on the Visitor Center berm | Pierce Cedar Creek Institute l A Grand Rapids Michigan Area Nature Center