Prairie strips are an up-and-coming conservation practice in Midwest agriculture. Converting 10% of a rowcrop field into strips of native prairie can control erosion, reduce pests, improve water quality, and create wildlife corridors. Preliminary data also suggests that prairie strips can remove harmful insecticides from farm soils, but the generality and mechanisms of this benefit have not been described. Despite these conservation benefits, adoption of prairie strips remains low across much of the Eastern Corn Belt, suggesting the need to better identify and communicate the benefits of prairie strips in collaboration with agriculture stakeholders. In this project, titled Conserving pollinators on farms with prairie strips, we propose a paired research project and outreach program to 1) investigate the mechanisms of neonicotinoid insecticide removal in prairie strips and 2) foster shared learning about prairie strip implementation and pollinator conservation benefits with farmers in southern Michigan. Our proposed research project will include a field study to investigate the removal of insecticides by prairie strips, followed by a laboratory study to determine whether prairie strip soil microbes are degrading neonicotinoids. We will then conduct a field day event at the site of a successful prairie strip implementation in southern Michigan, where we will join a host farmer to lead discussions about prairie strip implementation and pollinator conservation. Results of our research project will be published in a peer-reviewed publication and presented in-person at local conferences and meetings. Additionally, we will prepare a 1-page informational pamphlet designed for Michigan farmers and agriculture stakeholders that includes our research findings along with contact information for local agency personnel who can assist farmers with prairie strip enrollment and implementation. We will leverage the professional networks of our advisory team, including a Michigan prairie strip farmer and an agency conservationist, to distribute this 1-page pamphlet to a broad network of Michigan farmers, agency technicians, and agriculture advisors.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project is motivated by three primary learning outcomes: 1) increase the academic community’s understanding of how prairie strips remediate neonicotinoid insecticides, 2) increase farmers’ and agricultural advisors’ awareness of prairie strips, and 3) increase farmers’ access to a local network of resources for prairie strip adoption. The project also includes two action outcomes: 1) farmers will be provided resources about prairie strip conservation benefits including pollinator conservation, and 2) farmers will be connected with local contacts who can assist with prairie strip enrollment and implementation.