“Biological diversity is the key to the maintenance of the world as we know it.”
~ E.O. Wilson, Biodiversity
When it comes to farm-related conservation projects, most farmers will plant the seeds their families or their community have been using for years. These will generally be non-native cool-season grasses, legumes and shrubs. Through years of marketing and custom, these have become the cheapest, easiest choices to make. However, let’s consider other factors involved in the choice of conservation plants.
Non-natives do tend to be cheaper at the initial purchase, but natives will more than pay for themselves over the long haul. While per pound cost is higher than for exotics, long-rooted natives will stand up to flood and drought far better than commonly used exotics. Because they are adapted to Missouri’s many soil types and situations, natives will also produce and thrive without expensive fertilizers. With cool-season grasses you often have to reestablish after a drought. Natives will do just fine.
Whether or not something is easy tends to be a matter of habit. Most farmers and ranchers are in the habit of buying and planting cool-season non-natives. It’s just as easy to pick up the phone and call an MDC or FSA agent to find your nearest native seed dealer, locate the right equipment and even find a qualified contractor to install your native plant conservation contract. Grow Native! makes it easy to get in the habit of “thinking natives first.”
A non-native pasture is no more useful than asphalt to a newly hatched quail chick. Many ground-nesting birds and other wildlife species need a diversity of plants and structures—including a little bare ground—to forage, breed, and thrive. Missouri-grown native warm-season grasses and their complementary suite of forbs and shrubs provide a full variety of superior habitat for ground-nesters and a host of other wildlife species.
Remember the Flood of ’93? That year Missouri Department of Conservation and other natural resource management agencies noticed that levees planted with native switchgrass were less likely to yield to flood waters than those planted with non-natives. Deep roots give natives the advantage over short-rooted exotics in stabilizing soil and managing storm water. Waterways planted with native warm-season grasses will catch, clean, store and slowly release storm water, keeping soil at home, fields and pastures greener, and streams cleaner. Similarly, deep roots help native warm season grasses endure drought while cool season exotics die, exposing soil and giving weeds a foothold.
Using Missouri-grown native seeds for farm conservation programs is a sure way of supporting your agricultural neighbors. Missouri-grown native seeds not only protect and restore our natural heritage, using them keeps our ag dollars at home.
Missouri’s native warm season grasses, such as Big Bluestem, Eastern Gamagrass, Indiangrass and Little Bluestem, will give you exceptional forage long after your exotic cool season grasses have gone dormant. They also handle flood and drought much better than their cool season counterparts. A forb component creates a native prairie meadow and adds nutritional value to summer forage and winter hay.
From wineries to row crops and fruit orchards to livestock, Missouri’s agriculture is diverse and rich. And if you live on one of Missouri’s 107,000 farms, you are especially aware of the importance of good land management to improve productivity and to care for the land entrusted to you. Today’s modern farmers are looking for new ways to improve the bottom line while conserving the land. Native grasses and wildflowers could be an answer to filling a gap in your farm or ranch productivity and profits.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) has many programs and services, including domestic and international marketing assistance, to support you.
No, Grow Native! doesn’t sell any native plant product or service. Its role is to promote those who DO sell Missouri-grown native seeds, plants and related products and services. Our Resource Guide will help you find Missouri-grown native seeds and related services for your farm conservation contract.