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Seed-based webinar follow-up #12 You harvest summer fall, spread next... 2 M. De Vitis For the prairie restoration work in Indiana, the seed collection season runs from April to November, accumulating the harvested seeds during those months and sowing them as mixes by hydric zone/community type in December/January. Generally, cold-moist stratification (overwintering) alleviates dormancy in prairie species and cues seeds that spring is coming, so it is a less risky time to germinate and get growing. For that reason, sowing seeds in December/January exposes the seeds to a few months of winter conditions and sets them up for germination in early spring. That's good.However, we observed a poor conversion rate (the amount of seeds sown vs. the quantity of plants showing up in the restorations as a result) in the species which flower and ripen early in the year (April, May June) or what Chris refers to as ephemerals in his post above. We wanted to test the idea that keeping these seeds in storage during the summer months, instead of outside on the soil surface where they would be naturally, was causing the low conversion rates, i.e. limiting the establishment success of these species from seed. In the experimental plots, when we sowed seeds for 7 early-season species in the summer (closer to their natural dispersal season) there was greater diversity and shorter time to establishment of those species than in the plots that were sown in winter. This suggests that as best as your operations will allow, sow seeds in line with their natural cycles. I also encourage you to do your own trials and experiments.Frischie, S. L. and Rowe, H. I. (2012), Replicating Life Cycle of Early-Maturing Species in the Timing of Restoration Seeding Improves Establishment and Community Diversity. Restoration Ecology, 20: 188–193. doi:10.1111/j.1526-100X.2010.00770.x
by S. Frischie
Friday, May 5, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #3 What suggestions do you have for convinc... 1 M. De Vitis Farming with cover crops takes its own skill set and to be successful, farmers need to understand that the timeframe to see and make change is slower than with agrochemical or industrial farming practices. Farmers also need to have the expectation that they’ll be on a learning curve as they develop the skills and equipment to farm with cover crops. Trial or model farms can be really valuable to demonstrate to newcomers the benefits and challenges of using cover crops. Identify and collaborate with one or a few interested/motivated farmers to use parts of their farm for your trials and research. Another requirement for success is that a farming practice has an economic benefit. This will partially depend on the timeframe the farmer is considering (short-term or mid-term or long-term). Government programs (Farm Bill in the US, the CAP in Europe) support conservation, but to a limited extent. Third-party certification is an approach that is growing in the olive oil sector in Europe. Growers can get a higher value for their product from consumers who want to consume from farms with sustainable or conservation practices or wildlife benefit etc. Look into what exists in your area or consider developing a certification scheme. Farmers who grow a value-added product will also need to be savvy and involved in marketing the product, in contrast with farmers who grow and sell the harvest as a bulk commodity. Another business model which may work for some farms is agritourism, to showcase the beauty and diversity of the “wilder” orchards/vineyards.Best wishes in your work. I’m interested to talk more with you and will follow up via email.
by S. Frischie
Friday, May 5, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #2 What is meant by "orthodox or recalcitra... 1 M. De Vitis Orthodox, recalcitrant and intermediate are categories which reflect a species' tolerance to desiccation as seeds, also known as seed storage behavior. Most species' seeds are orthodox, that is, the seeds survive under low moisture conditions and viability can be maintained through dry storage.Recalcitrant species have seeds which die quickly (weeks-months) under low moisture conditions. They have limited storability because of this and either need to be sown and germinate or need to be stored under high relative humidity and cold temperatures (or other special environmental conditions) to maintain viability.Intermediate seeds tolerate some degree of drying, in between orthodox and recalcitrant categories.Generally seeds are orthodox, but species from humid or wet habitats and many trees may be recalcitrant. If you work with recalcitrant species, you need to be aware of this and use the seeds quickly or maintain them in moist cool conditions to avoid seed loss to death. Also in general, seeds from the same taxon will have the same storage behavior.For more information you can search "seed storage behavior"A summary is available here to start:http://data.kew.org/sid/storage.htmlAnd Kew's Seed Information Database is a way to search for the storage behavior of a given taxon (Family, Genus, Species)http://data.kew.org/sid/
by S. Frischie
Friday, May 5, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #1 Any info to share with orchardists/viney... 1 M. De Vitis One possible interpretation of this question is competition between the cover crop understory and the primary crop (olive trees/grapevines.)Another possible interpretation of this question is competition between a domesticated cover crop and a wild/native cover crop used in the understory.In either case, appropriate choice of the cover crop species and subsequent management are key for avoiding competition with the primary crop.The quality of wine grapes can be improved with competition, especially when cultivated in areas with higher rainfall and richer soils. Adequate stress to the grape plant increases the compounds which produce desirable wines. Cover crops can be used to achieve this with grapes.Currently, most commercially-available cover crops for orchards/vineyards are perennials from temperate continental climates. For olive farmers, these types of cover crops are mismatched to the Mediterranean climates where olives are grown, and competition for water is an issue. Native annual cover crops can provide the benefits of cover cropping (erosion prevention, increasing soil organic matter, increasing soil microbial diversity, increasing water infiltration, improving water holding capacity, increasing soil fertility, hosting beneficial insects and wildlife) while completing their life cycle during the cool winter wet season and then senescing at the onset of summer, avoiding competition for water with the tree/vine crops during fruit fill and ripening period. Management through well-timed mowing, spraying or light tilling of the cover crop can also be used to balance competition with the crop throughout the growing season.
by S. Frischie
Friday, May 5, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #4 How long do you store your seeds? ... 1 M. De Vitis We usually plant the majority of seeds within a year of harvest, but do hold some seeds over for the following year in case we don't find seeds for some species each year. We've done some limited testing of seeds and find that a year or two of storage seems to preserve germinability for most species, but after two years, we start losing germ of asteraceae, grasses, and others. If we were holding onto seeds for longer periods, we'd probably find a more suitable storage space!
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #5 For desert species, is storage in a metal.. 1 M. De Vitis I'd hate to advise you on this without any experience in your area. For our situation, we've not seen any issues with storing seed in a hot building over the summer, but the seed is also somewhat insulated by being in piles and inside paper sacks or other containers. But central Nebraska temperatures and seed responses are surely not applicable everywhere.
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #6 Is there a concern with genetic... 1 M. De Vitis Yes, but I hope we're mitigating that by also harvesting from remnant prairies. Restored sites might have a broader range of genetics than many remnants, especially if we do a good job of using seed from multiple sites when harvesting for those sites. Even so, the plants that actually establish and survive in those restorations might not fully represent the available range of genes in the landscape, so continuing to harvest from a range of remnant sites is probably important.
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #7 Does cost per acre include management... 1 M. De Vitis Great question. The costs I mentioned were only for seed harvest and planting. Our post-planting activities here are pretty limited, especially during the first few years, and then just become essentially the same as for all of our prairies. But in places where weed control is a major issue during the first couple years, factoring that into budgets is extremely important.
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #8 How do you monitor germination rates in... 1 M. De Vitis In cases where we've overseeded existing degraded prairies, we've just monitored establishment of species that were previously missing from the site. That way we don't have to try to figure out whether or not a particular plant is new or not.
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #9 You mentioned you have 200 species. Is ... 1 M. De Vitis We always aim to get about that many species in each mix. When we were really hopping back in 2000-2004, we were planting about 200 acres a year with mixes of 200 or more plant species. Today, we're doing smaller areas (focusing on other stewardship needs more than on restoration) and spending less time with seed harvest, so we've been closer to 150-160 species in our mixes.
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #10 In previously farmed fields (intensive)... 1 M. De Vitis Not at our sites, but they are pretty sandy, so compaction really isn't much of an issue. I don't know anyone around the Midwest or Great Plains who is trying to do anything about previous soil compaction, but that doesn't mean it might not be an issue. I guess I would be hopeful that establishing a good native community would eventually solve compaction issues by establishing an ever-increasingly strong root system belowground. Don't really have a good answer for this, though.
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #11 How is the restoration landscape... 1 M. De Vitis I think it's too early to tell. I've not seen any change in the work currently going on, but funding for conservation practices will certainly be up for debate in the coming years.
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #13 Are you using dormant season burning or... 1 M. De Vitis We use both, and both would have occurred historically. On the Plains of the Central U.S., people have been here as long as prairies have (since the recession of the last glaciers and subsequent development of grasslands). Those people used fire frequently and with multiple purposes. More importantly, we use fire today to achieve particular objectives and don't worry over much about whether we're burning at the same time a site would have burned historically. Instead, we are trying to figure out how to manage for biodiversity in the face of rapid climate change, invasive species threats, nitrogen deposition, and many other factors.
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #14 How much seed is suitable to use this... 1 M. De Vitis I'm not sure how to answer this. Seeding rates vary wildly from site to site depending upon soil, moisture, and prevailing weed pressure. If there is no local culture of restoration to learn from, it would probably be smart to do some small scale trials for a few years to see what seems to be most effective.
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #23 What advice do you have for sites with ... 2 M. De Vitis Are we talking about trying to kill all current vegetation in preparation for a new seeding? If so, I'd be curious to see how a herbicide regime that includes both chemicals that kill existing plants and that provide pre-emergent treatments would work. I have no experience with CA or similar areas, so this is just guesswork... If you could kill the existing vegetation, application of pre-emergent herbicide might help deplete the seed bank of invasives by killing them as they germinate, especially if you could burn or do something else to stimulate germination of the available seed bank. Is grazing an option? That might be an additional tool to help with pre-restoration site prep, but could also be useful afterwards if you get flushes of those invasives and could knock them back with short-term targeted grazing that suppresses vigor of invasives but then allows natives to grow after livestock are removed. Just crazy ideas...
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #24 Do you have some recommendation for ... 1 M. De Vitis That's a pretty broad question... In general, the first decision is whether or not to start over completely. If there are sufficient components of the native system left, you might choose to try to suppress invasives with spot-treatment and/or selective herbicides, prescribed grazing, or other techniques and maybe also overseed or otherwise enhance the native plant community. If, on the other hand, the system has essentially flipped to a completely new system, it might be most effective to just kill it all over and start again. This is clearly not a decision to be made lightly, but in some cases it is more cost effective (and simply effective) than trying to fight a constant losing battle against dominant invasives.
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #25 Have you heard about the Savory ... 1 M. De Vitis To be blunt, I think Savory has ideas that don't match up with reality. Research has repeatedly failed to confirm the effectiveness of his ideas and some of those ideas are blatantly erroneous. That said, there have been some positive outcomes from his admonition to ranchers about paying close attention to their grazers and forage resources. You can read a blog post I wrote that touches on much of this here: https://prairieecologist.com/2015/02/09/concerns-about-earth-a-new-wilds-messages-about-grassland-conservation/ I provided links to resources that are supportive of Savory's ideas as well.
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #26 What is the optimal till depth if the... 1 M. De Vitis I don't know about till depth, but our experience has shown that several years of herbicide and tillage are needed to assure a good kill of pre-existing invasives. Trying to skimp on that time has always come back to haunt us.
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #27 Exotic species are more tolerant to... 1 M. De Vitis I think much of the answer to invasive species (I'm not concerned much about exotic vs native unless those exotics are truly invasives) comes in the form of management rather than restoration technique. Some sites have tried to help themselves by planting high densities of forbs to try to overwhelm invasives, but even in those situations, patrolling for and eliminating invasive species is extremely important during the first couple years of establishment. Time spent during those first couple years will save a lot more time in subsequent years.
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Seed-based webinar follow-up #28 In some cases, seed resources are not... 1 M. De Vitis If you have the time, my advice is to start by harvesting the seed you have available (being conscientious about not taking all the seed from any population, of course) and establishing small restoration plots. After a few years, those small restorations will start to function as additional seed harvest resources and you can start to build slightly larger restored plots with that seed plus wild-harvested seed. As you start looking, you're likely to find more harvest sites and species in the area. Eventually, you can build to the point of being able to harvest and plant at the scale you want. This could take 10 -15 years or so, though, so it's not a quick solution. On the other hand, it's a tried and true method in many parts of the former prairie in the central U.S.
by C. Helzer
Thursday, May 4, 2017
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