Encouraging the use of plant materials to protect the quality of our surface waters. Plants can be very effective at removing or reducing excess nutrients or soil sediment without a high cost to society.
These are the thoughts of someone on a mission to use plants as a way to protect our lands and surface waters in the heart of the U.S. Cornbelt. I work for the Agricultural Watershed Institute.
Our new seedings of various kinds and combinations of native prairie plants is really struggling. The plantings have had less than 1" of rain in the last 6 weeks usually we would have had about 5" of rain in the same period of time. In the picture, you can see the black-eyed susan in bloom, that plant is less than 12" tall. Normally that type of plant would be at least 2' tall if not 3' tall at this time of the year. I am truly amazed at the drought tolerance of these new seedlings.
This morning, I took this photo of the hybrid willows that we planted on the first of May. You can see that willows grow well in very wet conditions. This makes them great candidates for removing excess nutrients in flood plains or other waterlogged places. Another advantage of the willow is that they can be cut for the wood and they will regrow from the stump, so no replanting needed after harvest. The small tree in this photo started as a 12" stem cutting that was inserted 8" into the ground. Pretty simple planting and it has grown about a foot in the last month.
I have been trying to plant a large prairie, bioenergy demonstration field for the past month and it keeps raining. So far only half is planted, but it is slowly starting to emerge. I am learning that native plant seeds do not all germinate at the same time, which is very different from seed you purchase from a seed company. Seed from a seed company all germinate and emerge at about the same time. Here is a picture of Indiangrass and Big Bluestem seedlings that were planted last month. The big one in the foreground emerged 3 weeks ago, the others came up last week.