Saturday, October 13, 2012

Open Field Restoration Project

Cool Restoration Project in the U.S. of 720 acres:

"Open fields in the heart of the forested Ozark hills are a precious commodity because not many exist, according to MDC Wildlife Management Biologist Ryan Houf. He said the fields play a vital role in wildlife management for bob white quail, swamp rabbits, cottontail rabbits, Eastern wild turkey, whitetail deer, elk, butterflies, insects, small mammals, and numerous song birds.

To help restore the fields, encroaching woody plants and invasive species such as Johnson grass, fescue, sericea lespedeza, and autumn olive were removed. Fertilizer and lime were applied to the fields by local contractors. Once the fields were prepared, MDC staf used a no-till drill to plant the fields. “The higher quality forage will provide year round utilization by wildlife,” Ryan said.

Cool-season grasses such as orchard grass and native warm season grasses such as big bluestem, little bluestem, gama grass, Indian grass, and switch grass were planted. To help offset future fertilizer costs, legumes such as clover and alfalfa were added into the grass mixes. The legumes add nitrogen to the soil and provide protein to wildlife and livestock that eat the forage. A winter cover crop of wheat, rye, or barley will provide wildlife green browse during the long winter months and also prevent erosion.

All this work enhances wildlife habitat by reducing invasive plant species, replacing those plant species with more wildlife friendly plants that provide food, cover, and nesting habitat. By eliminating the invasive plant species, the watershed is improved and better protected as well, Ryan said."

These fields are still used as hay fields but Parks and Conservation set  "haying dates and mowing heights to better promote plant health and vigor and maintain open field sustainability for wildlife and plant species."

Really interesting project - read more here: Cooperative field restoration promotes local economy and wildlife habitat from MDC Online 2012.

 Photo taken by Kim Houf, NPS (from MDC Online)

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