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Improving the Environmental Impact of Farming and Agriculture with Native Seeds

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Seeding native plants in agricultural areas reaps several benefits, including soil improvement, watershed protection, wildlife habitat, and quality forage for livestock.

The foliage of native plants reduces erosion by reducing the force of droplet impact. The deep roots of warm season grasses anchor the soil, and the fibrous roots knit it together to provide soil stabilization. In addition, roots of native plants can reduce soil compaction. Plantings of native meadows along waterways absorb nutrients that would otherwise runoff into streams and rivers.

Buffer strips of native plants attract and provide habitat for wildlife. They attract pollinators and support beneficial insects that control agricultural pests. Pollinator strips have been found to increase soybeans yields. Livestock, such as cattle, sheep, and goats can also thrive on native plants in rotational grazing systems. ERNMX-124 is a good fit for rotational grazing systems.

Growing Opportunities for Farmers and Agriculturalists Using Native Seeds

Programs available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service give farmers an opportunity to realize the benefits of planting native species. These voluntary programs include:

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Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP):
  • Who is Eligible: Owners and operators of agricultural or forest land who are interested in conserving natural resources on their farm, ranch, non-industrial private forest land, or entities involved in water conservation or irrigation efficiency with projects on or adjacent to a producer’s land.
  • Goals: Improving soil health and water and air quality, managing nutrients, pests, invasive species, and developing habitat for pollinators and other wildlife on eligible agricultural and forest land.
  • Benefits: EQIP provides technical assistance and 75%-90% of the costs for implementing practices that conserve natural resources. Planting cover crops, implementing a rotational grazing system, installing hedgerows for wildlife habitat, and constructing seasonal high tunnels (hoop houses) are a few examples of projects that can be completed through EQIP.
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Conservation Reserve Program (CRP):
  • Who is Eligible: Agricultural producers with environmentally sensitive land.
  • Goals: To reserve marginal agricultural land for planting native plants to manage soil erosion, water quality, and wildlife habitat.
  • Benefits: Through a 10-15 year contract, farmers receive rental payments or cost-share assistance to plant species that improve the environment. With more than 20 million acres protected, the reduction of water runoff, and sedimentation protects groundwater and above-ground waterways. In addition, wildlife populations in many areas of the U.S. have increased as a result of CRP.

Several programs within CRP are dedicated to specific types of landscapes:

  • Grassland CRP Working Lands: Producers are permitted to make hay, produce seed, and graze livestock on grasslands enrolled in CRP provided the current ground cover is maintained. Cost share is available for fencing and livestock watering.
  • State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) Initiative: Landowners support wildlife populations by establishing buffers, grasses, wetlands, or trees. A barrier to soil and nutrient runoff, these plantings also protect soil health and water quality.
  • Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers (CLEAR) Initiative: This initiative focuses on reducing harmful algal blooms and nutrient and sediment loads in various bodies of water. Some of the practices implemented include various types of buffers, waterways, and wildlife habitat.
  • CLEAR30: Rather than 10-15 year contracts, participants in this program enter 30-year contracts for longer term conservation impacts. Previous CRP or Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program enrollment must have expired prior to September 30, 2021.
  • Forest Management Incentive: CRP participants with existing trees receive funding to improve forest conditions, enhance wildlife habitat and manage the forest. Eligible practices include brush management, prescribed burning, early successional habitat, and others.

Creating Success with Native Seeds

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No matter what benefit you wish to capture or program you’re interested in, planting native seeds for farming and agriculture projects requires expertise and planning to succeed. Select a seed mix for your project with our Seed Finder Tool, which simplifies your search for the ideal native seeds for your project requirements. Visit our online resource center for our establishment guides and seedling gallery. Our establishment guides contain tips on site preparation, planting and maintenance. To help confirm that your meadow is growing, see our seedling gallery.

Contact us with your questions about using seed for agricultural and farming projects, and don’t forget to check out our Seed Finder Tool. Please complete the form at the bottom of the page or call us at 800-873-3321.

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