The Spatial and Temporal Effects of Prairie Strip Restoration on Soil Health

Submitted by barogers on Fri, 12/09/2022 - 11:07

Publication Type:



Soil Science and Sustainable Agriculture, Volume Doctor of Philosophy (2022)


<p>Prairie strips (PS), or plantings of reconstructed prairie surrounded by cropland, can have disproportionate environmental benefits compared to the amount of land they occupy (&lt;25% of a field). These benefits included improved water quality, reduced soil movement, improved nutrient retention, and more abundant and diverse wildlife. However, the PS impact on soil underneath and adjacent cropland is unknown. Because PS are narrow (usually &gt;10m wide), the soil health benefits may not mirror the more common reconstruction of prairies or grassland, which generally occur in large swaths of contigous land (&gt;10 ha). Futhermore, we know little about how PS affects the soil and crops adjacent to it.</p>

<p>My overarching hypothesis is that PS have little-to-no effect on adjacent cropland, and soil health recovery underneath the PS would be similar to the conversion of agriculture to grasslands. Namely, we would observe positive effects on soil properties related to soil ecosystem services like nutrient supplying power and soil carbon sequestration. More fine-scale exploration of the PS effects on adjacent crops and soils is needed to fine-tune the management of this integrated cropland-prairie system.</p>

<p>I found that PS increased soil health metrics under the PS and moderately influenced the adjacent cropland. PS accure microbial biomass, influences plant-available nutrients, and PS affects potential enzyme activity, depending on the year. PS did affect the adjacent cropland (&lt; 9m). PS strongly influenced the distribution of plant available nutrients, potentual enzyme activity depending on the year, leaf greennees and had a negligible effect on crop yield. Overall, PS improve soil health metrics by increasing C, influencing enzyme activity (&lt; 9m), and retaining plant available nutrients without significantly affecting grain yields.</p>