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

2005 Annual Report for GNC04-026

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

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


Re-introduction of native warm-season (C4) grasses into grazed cool-season (C3) pastures comprised of introduced species could promote genetic, species, and landscape diversity and be a means of improving wildlife habitat and increasing belowground carbon storage. Given the different phenologies of these two grass functional groups, a mix of C3 and C4 species in grazed pastures theoretically could provide a more even distribution of forage production. We know there is interest in the use of native grasses in pastures, but a formal analysis of farmer attitude is lacking and needed. We have developed a written survey to assess farmer attitude towards this.

Objectives/Performance Targets

I am assessing grazier attitudes towards incorporating conservation practices, specifically the use of native grasses in grazed pasture ecosystems. Through a written survey I will investigate grazier attitudes towards conservation, willingness of graziers to implement specific conservation practices and perceived obstacles to implementation of native grass re-introduction.


After completing a Survey Methodology course, I conducted focus groups with groups of graziers around Wisconsin to improve the quality of the survey instrument I was designing. Through these structured conversations I was able to uncover and eliminate ambiguous terms and concepts. The survey draft was reviewed by experts in the field and tested on graziers leading to further improvements. On February 21, 2006 the survey instrument will be mailed to 800 Wisconsin graziers. Two follow-up attempts will be made for non-responses. We anticipate beginning the survey data analysis process in early summer.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

This project will provide information to farmers, agency personnel, conservationists, and researchers of the Upper Midwest about the potential for incorporating conservation efforts, in particular native grass re-introduction, into farm management. Expected short-term outcomes are a documentation of farmer attitudes towards conservation in general and an improved understanding of the willingness of farmers to implement specific conservation techniques. We will also have a description of perceived obstacles to implementation of native grass re-introduction.

The short-term outcomes listed above will directly benefit those planning conservation projects and implementing policy by helping them focus their efforts on farmers willing to apply conservation techniques. It will also help policy makers fashion incentives for those less willing to implement such management. Researchers will gain insight into the perceptions and needs of farmers, which will help them formulate relevant scientific questions.

This work will foster dialogue and working relationships among the scientific and producer community that should demonstrate the value of farmer input into the research process and promote the concept that farmers can simultaneously produce commodities and provide important ecosystem services to society at-large.


Randall Jackson
Assistant Professor
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Department of Agronomy
1575 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53705
Office Phone: 6082611480