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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Conservation > Conservation Practices > Grass Planting

Conservation Practices
Minnesota Conservation Funding Guide


Grass Planting

 

Field planted to switchgrass. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
Field planted to switchgrass. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.

Restored prairie with mix of native grasses and forbs. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
Restored prairie with mix of native grasses and forbs. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.

Grass planting is establishing or restoring permanent, perennial conservation cover consisting of native or non-native (introduced) grass mixes. Grass planting is common on retired marginal cropland as a stand-alone practice to prevent wind and water erosion and provide habitat. Grass planting is also a key element of many other conservation practices.

Some of the most commonly planted introduced or cool-season grass species in Minnesota are smooth bromegrass, timothy and orchard grass. Introduced grass mixes often include legumes such as alfalfa, red clover, sweet clover and alsike clover.

Many conservation programs promote native or warm-season grasses; they provide exceptional habitat and their deeper roots make them especially effective at erosion control. Switchgrass, indiangrass and big bluestem are some of the most commonly planted native grass species in Minnesota. Seed mixes for restoring prairie or other native grasslands usually include a diversity of native grass species as well as forbs (broad-leaved flowering plants).

Why plant permanent grass cover?

Environmental benefits

  • Enhances soil quality by reducing compaction and restoring depleted organic matter through root growth
  • Reduces soil erosion and improves water quality by providing perennial ground cover and improving the soil structure, which reduces runoff by allowing water to enter more easily
  • Protects groundwater in wellhead protection areas by reducing the need for fertilizers and by utilizing nutrients before they have a chance to leach into aquifers
  • Sequesters carbon
  • Creates wildlife habitat—especially winter habitat and spring nesting cover for grassland birds
  • May help connect fragmented habitat, especially if part of a larger prairie or grassland-wetland complex
  • Aids the recovery of threatened and endangered grassland species

Practical benefits

  • Provides recreational opportunities for hunting, birding and wildlife watching
  • Provides opportunities for additional income through leasing land for hunting or other recreation, harvesting of native seed, or biomass production
  • Reduces fuel, fertilizer, chemical and irrigation costs relative to growing crops on marginal cropland
  • Offers an alternative for frequently flooded river bottomlands, pivot-irrigation field corners and other small or hard to reach parcels
  • Helps prevent gully formation that requires expensive corrective measures
  • Helps manage pest populations by providing habitat for natural predators of insect pests
  • Provides habitat for important pollinator species that many crops rely upon, such as bees

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Similar & related practices

More information

Guidance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Other resources

Minnesota Post-CRP Options - Minnesota Department of Agriculture

    See also resources for Grassland Management, General Habitat, Rare & Declining Habitat and Pasture/Hay Planting. 

    Contact

    See contacts for specific programs that fund this practice in the side-by-side payment comparison or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District