Farm & Rural Properties
Farmers, rural property owners and commercial enterprises with significant land bases outside of urban areas have a big role to play in tallgrass recovery. There is a potential for both financial and ecological “profit” as both new - and old! - Applications are being piloted throughout North America.
A key goal of the Tallgrass Recovery Plan is to encourage restoration and habitat creation initiatives. Specific objectives include encouraging interest in retaining remnants and using tallgrass plant species for commercial and agricultural purposes, such as seed production, livestock forage and grazing, stream buffers and roadside vegetation and management.
There are opportunities for “eco-tourism”, as well as farm and nursery tours, consulting, landscape and garden design. Honey production, cut flowers, herbs and other retail applications also provide entrepreneurial opportunities for rural landowners.
Stream Buffers & Erosion Control
Tallgrass species can be useful tools for creating buffer strips for riparian zones, as an alternative to trees or shrubs. The Nutrient Management Act, 2002, Ontario Regulation 267/03 requires that livestock have no access to surface water for operators with high-density permanent outdoor confinement area or areas.
Tallgrass is very effective for filtration of sediment, and soil-bound nutrients, pesticides and bacteria, as well as for phosphorus management. They are generally effective for increasing shore/bank stability and creating wildlife habitat.
Narrow grassed buffers are very useful in municipal and other open drains in flat, intensively cropped areas, or in intensively grazed areas where livestock have been excluded and trees plantings aren’t suitable.
An excellent resource for learning about buffer strips is Best Management Practices: Buffer Strips. Single copies are free to Ontario farmers from local Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food offices. Or to purchase a copy go to https://www.ontario.ca/search/search-results?query=Best%20managment%20practices-%20buffer%20strips
Forage, Grazing and Marginal Lands
Grassed buffer strips can also be established for forage and delayed grazing. In this way, cropland is not lost to production, wildlife habitat is created and sediment, pesticide and nutrient filtering is enhanced.
Cattle are well adapted to utilization of perennial warm season grasses like tallgrass species such as Indian Grass and Switch Grass.
Some benefits of tallgrass for grazing include the extension of the grazing season through hot summers, reduced fertilizer requirements, drought resistances, use of marginal lands and opportunities to increase stocking rates.
Prairie plants that are suitable for grazing and forage include Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Eastern/Side Oats Gama Grass, Indian Grass and Switch Grass. Please review pages 11-12 in the Agro-Economic Applications of Tallgrass Species (available for download) for a discussion of the research into the uses of tallgrass for forage.
Photos above – Jake Lozon, RLSN/ONS.
Photo below – Kenesserie Tallgrass prairie – Chatham-Kent