Fall Harvest

It’s harvest time!  When our neighbors start filling their combines with corn and soybeans, we know it’s time to harvest grass seed from our prairies too.  This year we don’t have a need for large amounts of seed from tall grasses,  so we’re not  combining our own seed.  Instead, we’ve been able to provide harvest sites to Prairie Plains Resource Institute.   They’re harvesting big bluestem, indiangrass, switchgrass, prairie cordgrass, and other prairie species from our sites to use in restoration work around eastern Nebraska.  In return, they’re giving us a share of the seed – in particular, a big load of  mixed seed from one of our more diverse restored prairies.  We’ll be using that seed to overseed some degraded remnants this winter.

 

Bill Whitney, of Prairie Plains Resource Institute, harvesting grass from a restored prairie at The Nature Conservancy's Derr Tract. Central Platte River, Nebraska.

 

While we’re getting our fair share of seed in return for letting Prairie Plains harvest from our prairies, I feel really good about being able to give something back to them for other reasons.  Bill Whitney has been a huge influence on my career (and that of many other ecologists).  He pioneered prairie restoration in Nebraska and I feel honored to have been able to learn his methods directly from him.

In addition, Bill was instrumental in getting The Nature Conservancy started on high-diversity prairie restoration back in the early 1990’s, and our earliest restoration sites were planted by Prairie Plains.  Much of the seed Bill’s been harvesting this week is coming from sites that he initially harvested seed for and planted 12-15 years ago.  So, really, we’re just letting him reap what he sowed.

If you’re interested in prairie restoration, you too can learn directly from Bill.  Gerry Steinauer, with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, took the initiative to capture Bill’s methods, along with input from me and others, and put it all into complete and readable guide.  You can download the guide here:  http://prairienebraska.org/Restoration%20Manual.pdf

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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