Can I plant a less diverse mix? Can I plant only grasses?
The number of types of prairie plants sown (“species richness”) and the amount of each type that is present in seed mixes is a management decision. How the plants will function and the seed mix costs are two primary considerations.
- Grass seed is generally cheaper than forb (i.e., wildflower) seed, but forbs are key components of prairie communities that supply pollen and nectar as important foods to pollinators and natural enemies of crop pests. Grasses have fibrous root systems, whereas prairie forbs often have deep taproots; thus, both types of plants play complementary roles in the soil environment.
- The most basic seeding mix for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contains only two forb species that comprise less than 5% of the seed mix, and these mixes often cost less than $100 per acre. Alternatively, forb-rich seed mixes that include rare species can cost over $1,500 per acre. There are a large number of moderate-diversity prairie seed mixes that cost about $250 per acre.
- The source and harvest method also affect seed-mix prices.