Tom's Blog

Monday, August 5, 2013

From smooth brome to good prairie!

When the Nature Conservancy acquired Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie in 1986, a one-acre strip on the north side was in alfalfa. Although cropping was discontinued immediately, there was no restoration work done there except an occasional burn. Predictably, this patch quickly turned into smooth brome (Bromus inermis). It was a little embarassing because the entrance to the preserve went right through this patch, not a good introduction for prairie visitors.

For a couple of years in the early 2000s Kathie and I tried burning followed by overseeding, but we soon determined that this approach was going to take too long. We needed herbicide to get rid of the smooth brome.

So here was the procedure we used: 1) Burn the field in early December (2004) to get rid of all the thatch. 2) On April 14, 2005, when the smooth brome was about 4" tall and no prairie plants were up yet, have Premier Ag Co-op spray with glyphosate (see photo). 3) About a week later, plant the whole field with a complete prairie seed mix. 4) Burn annually. 5) More planting after each burn.

This turned out to be the best prairie planting we have ever done. The diversity is high, and some of the more conservative species, such as lead plant, rattlesnake master, and compass plant, are well established. In addition, species such as wood betony have moved in from the remnant.

We call this area Gateway Prairie.

Spraying the smooth brome field. The Co-op personnel are very adept at controlling the boom

It took about 15 minutes to spray the whole field.

Gateway Prairie July 2013, looking south towards the original remnant. After 8 years of burns and overseeding.

Maintenance of Gateway Prairie has been quite easy. Sweet clover, the worst problem at Rettenmund, has never been a problem here. This year for the first time we had a crew do a sweep through the prairie for invasive brush (gray dogwood, brambles). 


Blogger Adaptive said...

why do you think the sweet clover was never a problem in the Gateway Prairie?

August 16, 2013 at 4:12 PM  

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