Using Native Forb Species to Enhance Forage Diversity for Livestock and Pollinators

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2024: $40,919.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2027
Grant Recipient: San Juan Islands Conservation District
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Walton Andrews
San Juan Islands Conservation District


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay


  • Crop Production: pollinator habitat
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement

    Proposal abstract:

    The intensification of agriculture has led to the loss of habitat
    for pollinators. Producers using innovative strategies to meet
    production needs are finding ways to reduce environmental
    impacts. Organic production methods have reduced the use of
    pesticides but often do not directly address the loss of habitat
    for wild pollinators on which both crops and ecosystem services
    depend. Current efforts introducing pollinator habitat into
    agricultural production directly address these needs by enhancing
    forage production with pollinator habitat while emphasizing the
    social-ecological benefits of sustainable agriculture.

    The proposed project explores establishing native prairie plants
    in grassed systems for organic producers. We seek to expand a
    project that began in the fall of 2022 to characterize the
    establishment of native forbs within the herbaceous layer of
    livestock forage. Farmers in western Washington state in the San
    Juan Islands recognize the need to conserve pollinator habitat
    and have demonstrated a need for technical assistance regarding
    regenerative pasture management and no-till methods to grow and
    sustain viable businesses. If funded, this project will provide
    evidence-based technical assistance for professionals and
    producers to address these needs by managing pastures for forage
    production and biological diversity of pollinators.

    By providing education for producers, research findings from this
    project will help to determine best management practices
    available to organic farmers for the introduction of prairie
    plants into forage production systems. Producers will gain
    knowledge of appropriate methods to be able to integrate
    management of regenerative forage production with pollinator
    habitat enhancement practices.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Project objectives to characterize the establishment of native
    pollinator habitat using native forbs to enhance livestock forage
    production and provide education using our research findings:

    • Test seeding methodology to determine if there is a
      difference in outcome between no-till and broadcast seeding;
    • Test the effects of tilling during site preparation on native
      pollinator plant establishment; 
    • Test early-season mowing to determine if increased mowing in
      the spring over multiple years can influence forb establishment
      among competitive pasture grasses;
    • Host field days for producers to discuss the research results
      informing best management practices;
    • Present project findings at the San Juan County Agricultural
    • Work with Master Gardeners to distribute findings via
      peer-to-peer educators;
    • Present project results at a professional conference; and
    • Publish a peer-reviewed journal article
    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.