Exploring the efficacy of prairie strips as a soil health promoting practice

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2023: $119,055.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2026
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Christine Sprunger
Michigan State University


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

Prairie strips are a novel conservation practice that can increase ecosystem services within row-crop agriculture while remaining profitable for farmers. However, the extent to which prairie strips promote sustained soil health across spatial and temporal scales is unknown. A more detailed understanding of the socio-economic risks and benefits, and barriers to adoption associated with prairie strips, is needed to promote this practice. This study will assess how prairie strips influence soil health and crop productivity using the Long-Term Agroecosystem Research site located at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS LTAR) in southwest Michigan. Data gathered from the LTAR will be paired with information from a chronosequence of on-farm trials ranging from newly installed strips to ones that have been in place for nearly a decade. At all sites we will monitor soil health metrics and crop productivity following prairie strip installation. Novel data produced from the series of prairie strips in our study will inform how this practice impacts soil health across a variety of soil types and crop rotations. On-farm trials will serve as outreach opportunities where farmers in the vicinity can view prairie strips in action, learn about establishment and implementation, and see key soil health results first-hand. In addition, this study will partner with economists to refine a partial budget template and disseminate a decision support tool that informs farmers when prairie strip installation is financially beneficial. Partnering with MiSTRIPS, MSU Extension, Edward Lowe Foundation, and the American Farmland Trust will provide additional opportunities to pilot the resources that we create and educate interested farmers on prairie strips across the region.  

Project objectives from proposal:

Objective 1: Assess how prairie strips impact soil health and yield. Learning Outcome: Researchers learn to maximize soil health with prairie strips. Action Outcome: Educators distribute recommendations to hundreds of farmers.  

Objective 2: Establish on-farm chronosequence trial and prairie strip demonstrations. Learning Outcome: Farmers learn to implement prairie strips. Action Outcome: 25 new farmers will implement prairie strips. 

 Objective 3: Launch decision support tool to help farmers understand when prairie strips are economically optimal. Learning Outcome: 100 farmers will learn about the cost and benefits of prairie strips. Action Outcome: Michigan farmers will increase soil health in a cost-effective way.

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.