Applying ecological treatments to boost yields among restoration target species of seed production areas

Project Overview

GNC19-293
Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2019: $14,942.00
Projected End Date: 10/29/2022
Grant Recipients: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Jeffrey Matthews
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Commodities

  • Additional Plants: native plants

Practices

  • Crop Production: fertilizers
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: AMF

    Proposal abstract:

    Title: Applying ecological treatments to boost yields among restoration target species of seed production areas

    Ecological restoration seeks to repair or assist the recovery of damaged or degraded ecosystems and yields benefits to society. Seed production areas (SPAs), which are plantings of wild plant species that apply agricultural and horticultural practices, are critical to supply these seeds for ecological restorations. SPA managers face challenges when cultivating wild plant species, leading to financial difficulties and unreliable seed supplies. Thus, restoration practitioners are commonly restricted by expensive or unavailable seed. SPA management techniques must be improved to boost seed yields to benefit stakeholders and facilitate ecological restorations. A common method to boost yields is to use chemical fertilizers similar to traditional agricultural techniques. Fertilizer addition has potential negative consequences such as nutrient runoff and promoting weed invasion, however. A promising technique is inoculation with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). AMF are soil fungi which associate with plant roots, providing water, nutrients, and pathogen defense in exchange for plant carbon. Recent studies suggest that soil inoculation with AMF could be an alternative and beneficial management technique that boosts plant growth. Yet, the value of AMF inoculation in commercial settings has not been evaluated.

    To study SPA management, I will test nutrient addition and AMF inoculation strategies in experimental SPAs. Using a randomized block design, I will determine how the treatments affect seed yields and managerial input for three restoration species in two study sites across three growing seasons. Learning outcomes of the project include increasing knowledge of SPA management techniques, and generating awareness of the potential of AMF as a sustainable management strategy. Long-term action outcomes include implementation of production techniques which will increase seed yield in SPAs and provide a more reliable source of native plant seed for ecological restorations. I will evaluate the outcomes of this project by a combination of personal interaction with stakeholders at targeted conferences, as well as a follow-up survey of a technical report that I will send directly to producers in the native plant industry. My project will enhance the quality of life for SPA managers in the native plant industry, improve seed supplies imperative for restorations, and make this seed production more sustainable.  

    Project objectives from proposal:

    My outcomes will target stakeholders in the native plant nursery, particularly native seed producers. This project will create critical knowledge about SPA management techniques for native growers. Such knowledge would improve the abilities of managers to reliably produce their crop. Results could encourage native growers to boost yields using sustainable inoculation techniques rather than fertilizer addition. It will promote a greater awareness about the value of soil manipulation through arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal inoculation. My participating stakeholders will apply both methods to their experimental SPAs. Long-term action outcomes include implementation of production techniques which will increase seed yield in SPAs and provide a more reliable source of native plant seed for ecological restorations

    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.