Incorporating native grasses for conservation into pastures of the Upper Midwest: Assessing farmer attitudes

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2004: $9,570.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Grant Recipient: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Randall Jackson
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: other, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing - multispecies
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems


    There are potential agronomic and ecological benefits to restoring native prairie grass species to agricultural lands, but little is known about graziers’ attitudes towards doing this. We assessed this by mailing a written questionnaire to 800 Wisconsin graziers. Our results showed that 35% of respondents were interested in native grasses for pasture use. However, the large majority of graziers reported that they were unfamiliar with the identification, establishment, and management of native grasses. The most important predictor of grazier interest in native grasses was their belief in how native grasses affect the environment.


    More tallgrass prairie has been lost than any other terrestrial ecosystem (Samson and Knopf 1994) and relict tallgrass prairie in the Midwestern United States remains a threatened plant community. Restoring native prairie grasses to agricultural lands could exponentially increase the amount of land available for conservation efforts and connect plant communities across the landscape, aiding in the recovery and preservation of tallgrass prairie species. In addition, there are potential agronomic and environmental benefits that could be realized by reintroducing native warm-season grasses to the landscape, including increased carbon sequestration (Tufekcioglu et al. 1998, improved habitat for birds (George and Obermann 1989, Ribic and Sample 2001, Giuliano and Daves 2002), and greater forage production, especially during hot, dry summer months when cool-season grass pastures “slump” in production (Belesky and Fedders 1995, Paine et al. 1999).

    If conservation projects are to improve the environmental quality of rural life these techniques must be implemented, but little is known about graziers’ attitudes towards native grasses, or the extent to which some are using native species in their farming systems.

    Project objectives:

    The objectives of this research were to assess:
    1) the current status of native grass use on Wisconsin grazing farms, and
    2) Wisconsin graziers’ attitudes towards native grass use in farming systems and conservation projects in general.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.