FAQ: Do I have to plant prairie plants?

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Do I have to plant prairie plants? Can I just use brome?

Grasses such as smooth brome, tall fescue, orchard grass, and Kentucky bluegrass are widely used to provide ground cover in agricultural areas of the U.S. Corn Belt, but they are relatively weak-stemmed and prone to laying flat under heavy rain. They are useful for grassed waterways that are intended to convey water while preventing erosion. In contrast, native tall-grass prairie communities are typically dominated by stiff-stemmed grasses and erect forbs (i.e., wildflowers) species that are less prone to collapse under heavy rain and more effective in providing resistance to water flow and sediment movement

Monocultural plantings of smooth brome, tall fescue, orchard grass, or Kentuck bluegrass will not provide the same support for pollinators as diverse native plantings because they lack flowering plants, also known as forbs. The nectar and pollen associated with flowering plants comprise their food.

While plantings of perennial monocultures are beneficial in keeping roots in the ground for the entire year, they will not have as diverse and abundant root systems as diverse plantings. Thus more time will be required to provide soil health benefits such as breaking up compaction, improving infiltration, and raising soil organic matter. For this reason, they are also less resilient to weather extremes.

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