Evaluating Methods for Making Native Plants Productive and Profitable on the Iowa Landscape

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2010: $9,979.42
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Grant Recipient: Iowa State University
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Mary Wiedenhoeft
Iowa State Univ


  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bovine


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

    Proposal abstract:

    As native ecosystems are under increasing pressure to be brought into production due to rising crop prices, making native plants profitable becomes essential to maintaining native plants and ecosystems on the Iowa landscape. Grazing native plants provides an economic incentive to keep native plants on the landscape, but also has the potential to provide forages during the summer when cool-season pastures are less productive. Currently, little agronomic information exists for farmers and land-managers that are interested in grazing native plants in Iowa. The proposed research will create a directory of experiences and lessons learned from farmers and land managers in Iowa who have grazed native plants, and will also identify tools for farmers or land managers to use to optimize the quantity and quality of forage grazed or harvested. The research will compare day of year, growing degree-days, moisture, and mean stage count as tools for predicting forage quality. Economic analyses based on the research will help farmers and land-managers utilize native plants for grazing in order to optimize goals of conservation and profitability. In the short and intermediate terms, more awareness will be raised about grazing native plants and tools for grazing. In the long term, there is potential to increase planting of native plants, and therefore ecosystem services, on the Iowa landscape. The project will be evaluated by surveys at field days, economic feasibility results, and adoption on the landscape.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    -Interview producers in Iowa that currently incorporate native plants into their grazing system and document their experiences in an extension type document. Create directory of people with native plant grazing experience so others can learn from them.
    -Test predictive tools for understanding forage quality and yields in native plant stands across the state so producers can better plan and design grazing management for native plants.
    -Complete a literature review to understand the ecological impacts of grazing native plants.
    -Create a model for estimating peak biomass yields on prairies (native plant grasslands) with different management histories and soil types for better grazing system design.

    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.