Native Seed Production for Crop Diversification

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $171,121.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Ron Godin
Colorado State University - Rogers Mesa Res. Ctr.

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: native plants


  • Crop Production: continuous cropping, fertigation, nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Pest Management: chemical control, field monitoring/scouting, physical control, cultivation
  • Soil Management: soil analysis
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    a. Increasing Producer Knowledge, Awareness, Attitudes and Skills. The Native Seed Production for Crop Diversification Project (Project) will educate producers located in Uncompahgre Plateau (Plateau) communities how to grow, harvest and market native plant seeds. The Project will enable information transfer to producers from native seed research conducted by Colorado State University (CSU). Ultimately, a native seed cooperative structure will be developed, including developing storage facilities and a market infrastructure, to provide for an ever-growing demand for native seeds in western Colorado as well as within the multi-state area. However, the cooperative aspect is not a part of the Project. The Project will provide local landowners the opportunity to economically benefit from the production of native seeds species, including grasses, forbs and shrubs, necessary for wildlife forage and the restoration of the Plateau. Once seed production is underway, the Uncompahgre Plateau Project (UP Project) will be the major consumer of locally produced native plant seeds, and it has estimated to spend $1.25 million over the next 8-10 years on native seeds. b. Information Dissemination. Project partners, CSU, PLP and UP Project, will work closely with five local producers to complete the technical research necessary to provide the producers with the knowledge and skills needed to begin native seed production. Research will define cultural practices for specific species, including how seeds will behave using different cultivation, irrigation and fertilization methods to optimize seed production. Best production practices will be disseminated to local producers through meetings, field demonstrations, training sessions and technical publications. This Project will educate producers about Colorado seed certification procedures for native seed. In addition, the UP Project provides education to community members and gains public input through the UP newsletter (UPP-Date), website (, public meetings, field trips and speakers. These information avenues, including several field day/demonstration events, will inform producers about the Project in addition to connecting seed markets with local producers. c. Resources Impacted. Located in western Colorado, the Plateau encompasses 1.5 million acres of public and private lands, includes five counties, and is bordered by the cities of Montrose, Delta, Grand Junction, Ridgway, Olathe, Norwood, Naturita, Nucla and Gateway. In the past 120 years, the Plateau has been severely impacted by human activity, including grazing, logging, recreation, fire suppression and road construction. Livestock grazing and fire suppression have allowed the pinyon-juniper woodlands and shrublands to increase in density, decreasing elk and mule deer habitat. Native seed species will be used to increase the pinyon and juniper understory, used for winter forage by deer and elk, and to generally benefit the ecosystem health of the Plateau. The UP Project, which is a new and experimental method for managing public/private lands through a collaborative, community-based process, is attempting to understand the impacts of human activity on the Plateau and begin the process of ecosystem restoration in a manner that involves and best serves the interests of the local communities. Native seeds from this Project initially will be used for restoration of the 50,000-60,000-acre Spring Creek and Dry Creek Watersheds. In the long term, native seeds will be used for restoration projects throughout the 1.5 million-acre Plateau and potentially within the multi-state area of the Colorado Plateau. In 2002, fires consumed 31,500 acres on and adjacent to the Plateau, and a large quantity of native seed is also required for this restoration. There is a large demand for locally produced native seed in the Plateau area. This Project will begin working with and transferring technology to local producers that they may produce the necessary native seed. d. Economic and Quality of Life Impacts. Farming and ranching are important industries on private land in the UP Project area, and crops consist primarily of livestock, corn, onions, pinto beans, alfalfa and grass hay. This Project will allow farmers and ranchers to sustain a more even income by diversifying their crop base with the inclusion of native seed production. There is a nationwide trend to shift from non-native to native species for rehabilitation and revegetation, especially on federal lands, ensuring a future market for native seed. At this time, the demand for native seed far outweighs the supply. Because the native seed market is a steady and recognized market that is insulated from competition, native seed production offers farmers a possibility of higher economic return per acre with long-term production potential. Overall, the Project encourages sustainable agricultural practices in a nontraditional way. As an incentive, producers will be offered their cost plus an agreed upon price, per pound of seed produced, during the three-year Project period. While cultivation methods are being refined, this cost-plus basis will ensure income and incentive to producers. Ultimately the UP Project will help producers create a native seed cooperative structure to support producers and enable a long-term, economically sustainable market infrastructure locally as well as for the Colorado Plateau region.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    (1) Sustain long-term agricultural production by enhancing crop diversification and economic sustainability. The Project will strive to use both producer and researcher feedback to improve native seed cultivation practices to continually improve production practices that enable sustainable long-term production and economic viability for producers. The inclusion of native seed production will aid in crop diversification and economic sustainability by increasing income compared to traditional alfalfa and hay production.

    (2) Rehabilitate and restore natural ecosystems on the Plateau through the use of locally produced native plants seeds. The outcomes generated by this Project, locally produced native seeds, cultivation methods for large-scale native seed production and establishment of producer-buyer relationships, will greatly aid in restoration on the Plateau. Initially, restoration will be on a watershed basis, later growing to the entire Plateau. Eventually, it is anticipated that the region will become a seed source for restoration efforts within the entire Colorado Plateau.

    (3) Enhance viability of long-term seeding projects by using locally produced and adapted species. The Project will help to ensure and sustain a native seed production base for long-term restoration and revegetation efforts on the Plateau by working together with local producers and creating a market for large amounts of locally produced native seed.

    (4) Provide the information, knowledge and infrastructure for raising native seeds commercially for an existing high-demand market. Research outcomes and producer feedback will be incorporated into the existing knowledge base to improve cultivation methods and optimize native seed production. Research and producer results on improving production will be disseminated to producers at field days and through reports and presentations.

    (5) Conduct research of native seed production and the transfer of production information to local growers. Moreover, seed producers will be an important source of information and knowledge for researchers as the producers monitor their crop production and provide specific crop information for adoption into the production system.

    The final outcome of this Project is anticipated to be improved methods for native seed production that will enable local producers to grow the large amounts of seed needed by the UP Project to revegetate the Plateau. Local producers will benefit from crop diversification and ready markets for their long-term production, thereby increasing their long-term economic sustainability and viability while contributing to environmental improvement in the region.

    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.