Native pasture. Photo: Steve Clubine
Natives for Farms
If you wish to diversify pastures with native forage, increase and sustain pollinating insects on your farm, reduce erosion in your row crops, or plant native plants, trees and shrubs to sell or eat, these resources on this page may help you. If you own and/or manage large acreages for recreational purposes or for wildlife habitat, see the resources below.
Natives are cost-effective
Cheaper or more cost-effective? Non-natives do tend to be less expensive at the initial purchase, but natives will more than pay for themselves over the long haul. While per pound cost is higher than for non-native plants, long-rooted natives will stand up to flood and drought far better than commonly used exotic plants. Because they are adapted to Missouri’s many soil types and situations in the lower Midwest, 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.
Better for native wildlife diversity
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. Native warm-season grasses, wildflowers and occasional shrubs from the lower Midwest provide diverse vegetative structure and food sources for ground-nesting birds like Northern bobwhites and many other animals. Native pastures not only benefit wildlife, but also provide healthy livestock forage, store carbon in soil, and prevent erosion.
Better for conservation—regardless of the weather
Remember the Flood of 1993? That year natural resource professionals noticed that levees planted with native switchgrass were less likely to yield to flood waters than those planted with non-natives. Deep-rooted natives have an advantage over short-rooted exotics in stabilizing soil and managing stormwater. Waterways planted with native warm-season grasses will catch, clean, store and slowly release stormwater, keeping soil in place, fields and pastures greener, and streams cleaner. Similarly, deep roots help native warm-season native grasses endure drought while cool season exotics die, exposing soil and giving weeds a foothold.
Good for local economies for local economies in the lower Midwest
Using native seeds grown in the lower Midwest for farm and land conservation programs is a sure way of supporting your agricultural neighbors. Locally grown native seeds not only protect and restore our natural heritage, using them keeps our agricultural dollars close to home.
Native prairie plants for livestock forage, pollinator habitat, and grassland bird habitat
Native warm-season grasses and forbs of the lower Midwest, such as big bluestem, Eastern gama grass, indiangrass, and little bluestem provide exceptional forage long after non-native cool-season grasses have gone dormant. These plants also generally withstand flood and drought much better than their cool-season counterparts like tall fescue. A forb component (native wildflowers and native legumes) adds nutritional value to summer forage and winter hay. Livestock may self medicate by selectively choosing plants with specific properties.
Consult this list of prairie grasses, wildflowers, and forbs that Steve Clubine recommends for native pasture establishment.
Learn more about using native grasses and forbs on farms in “Native Warm-Season Grass News,” the regular Missouri Prairie Journal feature written by Steve Clubine, a Missouri Prairie Foundation technical advisor and native forage expert.
Learn how to manage invasive plants in native pastures in this webinar with Steve Clubine.
This article from the Missouri Prairie Journal discusses how to use a cover crop or “nurse crop” to give cattle forage to eat while natives establish.
For those wanting in-depth information on establishing native pastures, Steve Clubine recommends this publication, “Native Warm-Season Grasses: Identification, Establishment and Management for Wildlife and Forage Production in the Mid-South” from the University of Tennessee Extension.
The Missouri Department of Conservation also offers these Grazing with Wildlife Management resources.
Prairie plantings offer many benefits to landowners, in addition to providing livestock forage. This article from Missouri Prairie Foundation Director of Prairie Management Jerod Huebner provides step-by-step instructions on establishing prairie plantings, as does this webinar from Jerod.
In-depth guide: Reconstructing a Tallgrass Prairie–A Seeding Guide for Missouri produced by Shaw Nature Reserve and Grow Native!
This article from Jerod Huebner from the Missouri Prairie Journal offers best treatment methods for common invasive plants in prairies and prairie plantings.
Find Grow Native! Professional members who sell seed, prepare seed mixes, provide native pasture establishment services, and more in our Grow Native! Resource Guide.
Native plants for erosion control
Native trees and other plants, depending on the situation, planted along streams can protect stream banks and water quality.
Strips of prairie plants can be integrated into row crop agriculture, significantly curbing erosion and preventing runoff of agricultural chemicals into streams. These natives also provide habitat for pollinators and grassland birds.
Learn more about prairie strips in this Missouri Prairie Journal article and at the Iowa State University STRIPS website.
Woodlands and forests of the lower Midwest are rich in timber-producing native trees, and support a great diversity of plant and animal life. If your goals are managing your wooded property for timber production, these resources may be helpful to you:
Missouri Department of Conservation Missouri Forest Management Guidelines
Forest and Woodland Association of Missouri
Missouri Consulting Foresters Association
Plant an Oak! (But not a Pin Oak!)
Native specialty crops & native edibles
Many plants native to the lower Midwest may be cultivated for native seed production, fine wood (like black walnut), fiber and handicrafts, cut flowers, and native edibles like pawpaws, persimmons, black walnuts, and much more. Visit our Native Edibles page for resources.
The following organizations may have useful information for you if you are considering growing native trees/plants as specialty crops:
Missouri Native Seed Association (a Grow Native! professional member)
Missouri Nut Growers Association
Arkansas Pecan Growers Association
Northern Nut Growers Association (including Illinois)
Learn about the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program from the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
Invasive Plant Information
MO Invasive Plants Council (MoIP)