Mary Ann Bolton Undergraduate Research Award
Seed Mix Design and First-year Management Influences Ecological Outcomes in Prairie Reconstruction
Recipient of the 2019 Mary Ann Bolton Undergraduate Research Award, Third Prize.
To go to the Mary Ann Bolton Undergraduate Research Award page, Click here.
Year of Award
Open Access Paper
Agricultural growth continues to diminish ecosystem services in the North American Corn Belt. To address these concerns, organizations, such as United States Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), have initiated targeted conservation practices (CPs) to address specific challenges (e.g., CP2 to establish native grasses on highly-erodible lands and CP42 to establish pollinator habitat); however, these programs may be able to achieve greater impact with limited resources by attempting to balance multiple ecological benefits. To better understand factors that influence multifunctionality, we examined the effects of seed mix design and first year management (mowing) on ecological outcomes in a prairie reconstruction. Using experimental field trials, plots were established with three seed mixes, both with and without first-year mowing. The seed mixes differed in species diversity, grass-to-forb seeding ratios, and costs: the Economy mix had 21 species at a 3:1 grass-to-forb seeding ratio; the Pollinator mix had 38 species at a 1:3 grass-to-forb seeding ratio; and the Diversity mix had 71 species at a 1:1 grass-to-forb seeding ratio. The Economy and Pollinator mixes were designed to mimic commercially available seed mixes for CP21 and CP42 respectively, while the Diversity mix was customized to the mesic soil conditions at the site. To assess ecological outcomes, we measured native stem density, canopy cover, and inflorescence production over a four-year period (2015 – 2018). The Economy mix had high native plant cover and high grass stem density, but produced few inflorescences and had low floral diversity. The Pollinator mix had high inflorescence production and high floral diversity, but had high bare ground cover and weed abundance. In the Diversity mix, native cover and grass stem density were comparable to iv the Economy mix, while inflorescence production and floral diversity were comparable to the Pollinator mix. Our results suggest that a well-designed seed mix, customized to site conditions, can effectively address multiple conservation concerns in a prairie reconstruction.
Award Sponsored by
Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa
Mark E. Sherrard
Department of Biology
©2019 Alec Glidden
Glidden, Alec, "Seed Mix Design and First-year Management Influences Ecological Outcomes in Prairie Reconstruction" (2019). Mary Ann Bolton Undergraduate Research Award. 2.