Peggy Olwell, USDI BLM, Washington DC
Following record breaking wildfire seasons of 1999 and 2000, Congress directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to develop and implement a program for site appropriate native plant materials. The Native Plant Materials Development Program (NPMDP) is coordinating organizations around the country to collect, curate and conserve plant diversity. With the assistance of more than 500 partners, BLM is leading the Interagency NPMDP to ensure the quality and quantity of genetically appropriate native plant materials are available commercially for restoring native plant communities across the American landscape. Developing a crop from native wild species begins with seed collection. Seeds of Success (SOS) is the native seed collection phase of the NPMDP. SOS makes the primary collections needed for restoration following disturbances and for use in climate adaptation strategies. Nearly 100 teams working nation-wide have contributed to the more than 9,500 collections in the SOS National Collection. Climate change is altering native plant communities at a greater rate than previously anticipated and effects on native plant communities could be extensive. To avoid the threat of habitats dominated by monocultures of invasive species, we may need to move and establish native plant materials to more northern latitudes if plant communities cannot adapt to climate change. Developing native plant materials and having native seed stored in long-term storage and available commercially for restoration will provide federal agencies with important tools to help address threats to natural systems posed by destructive events such as wildfires, invasive species, and climate change.
Nancy Shaw and Berta Youtie, USDA FS Rocky Mountain Research Station, ID and Eastern Oregon Stewardship Services, OR
The Native Plant Materials Development Program was authorized by the U.S. Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of FY2001 to provide support for development of native plant materials required for restoration of disturbed public lands in the U.S.A. The Washington, DC, Office of the USDI Bureau of Land Management has provided national leadership for this program by developing partnerships with more than 250 public and private entities, a national program for collecting germplasm for ex situ conservation and for seed increase for restoration uses, and by initiating state and regional level native plant materials programs. Regional programs such as the Great Basin Native Plant Selection and Increase Project aim to fulfil long-term plant material needs by providing genetically diverse, regionally appropriate seed sources and fostering the research required to produce seeds of new restoration species in agricultural settings. The Deschutes Basin Native Plant Seedbank, a non-profit organization, has provided valuable leadership by functioning as a buyer’s cooperatives to provide affordable local seed for public and private partners in areas with a mosaic of land ownerships. At all levels, native plant materials development programs rely heavily upon cooperation among land managers, researchers, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector seed industry.
Stanford Young, Utah Crop Improvement Association, UT
Native species plant materials utilized for restoration are often chosen on the basis of price, convenience, or desperation. Such materials may be mislabeled as to species, or have a provenance that is not a good match with species genetic variability structures and/or physical and climatic environmental conditions of the planting site. A preferable choice would be to obtain seed that has been increased from remnant wildland populations or formal stock seed banks of a desired species, thus establishing genetic identity. Genetic purity can then be tracked through field or nursery production, marketing, distribution, and planting. This procedure is expedited by the Pre-Variety Germplasm (PVG) seed certification program, a third-party inspection and labeling protocol developed by the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA). Native seed procurement for large fire rehabilitation plantings in the Great Basin (Western U.S.) has been greatly facilitated by the AOSCA PVG and associated stock seed maintenance programs. The certification process for wildland seed collection and cultivated production includes filing applications, proper permitting for wildland collection, wildland site and/or field or nursery inspections, monitored harvesting, seed conditioning, and seed sampling procedures, seed purity and viability analysis, and tagging of seed lots to signify completion of certification. The process is efficient and economical and easily recognizable in the marketplace. It provides accurate provenance and production documentation for those seeking site appropriate native plant materials.
Jerry Benson, BFI Native Seeds, Inc., WA
Growing plants for Nature’s purposes, as well as our own, causes us to change our focus from agronomic paradigm to an ecological one. The shift in purpose and genetics between the two ideas is large. A transition in cultural method and decision-making must take place in a partnership between producers and end-users. Where ecology is ascendant, disengaging project outcomes from the production process will not work. The complex work of restoration now becomes more so, as those stakeholders must learn to be a new kind of farmer.
Anita Kirmer and Sabine Tischew, Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, Bernburg, Germany
Extensively managed semi-natural grasslands are known for their extremely high biodiversity. This biodiversity can be protected by specific conservation measures but also by using the available seed potential in restoration. Seeds can be harvested with different techniques such as mowing, on-site threshing, or seed-stripping. The use of harvested seed-rich materials in restoration leads to a species composition typical for the concerned region, consequently contributing to the preservation of regional biodiversity. The established ecotypes are optimally adapted to local climatic and edaphic conditions. "Semi-natural grassland as a source for biodiversity improvement (SALVERE)" is a project within the Central Europe program. Until December 2011, eight project partners from six EU-countries are working together to promote the use of native plant material in restoration. Among harvesting techniques, a key issue is quality and quantity of seed mixtures harvested under different conditions. In 2009, 17 pilot projects were implemented and seed mixtures are analyzed in laboratory and greenhouse experiments. Together with five old demonstration trials, restoration success was documented on former arable land, species-poor grasslands, and mined sites. The trials comprise different vegetation types (Arrhenatherion, Bromion, Molinion, Deschampsion) and restoration methods (seed-rich green hay and hay, seed-rich material from on-site threshing and seed-stripping). First results show a fast vegetation development and a good establishing rate of introduced species. In 2011, a practical handbook for seed harvest on suitable donor sites and ecological restoration of species-rich grasslands with best practice methods will be published to enhance exchange of knowledge about ecological restoration all over Europe.
Birgit Feucht, Rieger-Hofman GMBH, Blaufelden, Germany
I. Farming wild-seeds of regional origin by indigenous cultivation: After collecting the wild-seeds in their natural habitats they are cultivated as singular species. This suits the purpose to preserve the natural populations and to enlarge the amount of seeds for trade in the next generation. The single species are then recomposed in mixtures for different site-related conditions and the needs of the client. The compositions of the mixtures are created according to the natural plant societies and the region of the future receptor site. The aim is to stay in the same region. II. Use of seed mixtures: Wild seed-mixtures can be used for example in: bioengineering or renaturalization, species rich borders, greening up of industrial sites, the establishment of vegetation on roofs III. Quality aspects of wild seeds: Guarantee of the indigenous origin of the basic seed, Preservation of a high genetic spectrum, Cultivation of the basic seed in the same region, Preservation of a high germination rate, High purity of the seeds, Control of the flow of goods, all these aspects should be assured by an independent certificate. European seed market for indigenous wild seeds. Because of the influence of the European legal framework on national and regional seed markets we sustain the efforts of a European network and the development of European quality standards.
Richard Scott, Landlife/National Wildflower Centre, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Landlife has been involved with creative conservation and the delivery of high quality ecological landscapes for over 35 years. In the nineteen seventies and eighties it was almost impossible to purchase native seed of any description, so groups and individuals interested in pioneering these subject areas had to find their own sources, and become adept at locating sites for collection as well as advocating the best possible use of a very precious resource. This presentation addresses the importance of combining the good practice of establishing and producing reliable sources of seed; as well as demonstrating the use of native wildflower seed, and promoting the advantages of these actions, rather than doing projects furtively with little social connection. By showcasing good practice and demonstrating the use seed mixtures in a whole set of challenging scenarios, we can engage diverse groups of people in the process, and deliver principles of environmental justice. In parallel to Landlife’s wildflower farming operation, Landlife established the UK’s National Wildflower Centre in 2000, and is engaged in a range of initiatives that are as much socially driven as ecologically based. These social bridges are critical if native wildflowers are to be adopted in the kind of large scale landscape scale solutions demanded to address the environmental crisis of our age.
James Cane, USDA Agricultural Research Service, UT
Government land managers oversee 40 million ha in the Great Basin of the western U.S.A. Its shrub steppe plant communities include diverse perennial wildflowers, but are widely degraded. Annual demand for 250 tons of affordable wildflower seed to restore Great Basin landscapes can only be satisfied by farming for seed. Sixteen wildflower species native to the region were chosen because they are widespread, common, broadly adapted, and practical for farming. We are studying each species’ breeding biology, pollination needs and pollinators; these are often unknown for entire genera or even tribes. None are wind-pollinated. Only Crepis can be autogamous, the rest requiring a pollinator. All but two species sets more seed with outcrossing; some require it. Native bees are the dominant, often only visitors in each floral guild in the wild. We find that these steppe bee communities are surviving wildfire because most species nest in the ground. Where healthy wildflower communities follow burning, wild bees remain diverse and abundant. Most of the candidate plant genera host one or more potentially manageable bee species. Osmia bees abound at 7 of the wildflowers, especially Astragalus, Hedysarum and Lupinus. These legumes in particular share bee species, including cavity-nesting species with management potential. One or more of the 3 agricultural field pollination strategies – hived honeybees, nesting management of native non-social bees, and bee community stewardship – is being developed and prescribed for farming each flowering species.
Bernhard Krautzer and Albin Blaschka, AREC Raumberg-Gumpenstein, Austria
In Austria, many thousands of hectares are restored each year following such infrastructural intervention as road building, flood protection, construction of torrent- and avalanche barriers or as a part of compensation measures. But also other areas like roughs on golf courses, sporting fields, railway reserves, industrial sites, flat roofs and public areas are interesting open space that should be used to provide biodiversity preservation. In the last 20 years the Federal Research and Education Centre for Agriculture (AREC) Raumberg-Gumpenstein, Austria, established systematically a scientific basis for the exploitation, propagation and practical use of site specific grasses and herbs. At the same time the commercial propagation of species for restoration in high altitudes and for landscape construction was set up. Thus, for innovative farmers and seed producers, new possibilities for a profitable, not regulated production emerged. The propagation of site specific species is riskier than conventional seed propagation and bears a much higher complexity. For a viable seed production are costs, yield and revenue essential. Preconditions are above average care, high willingness to take risks and a learning process of several years. At present, about 65 site specific grasses and herbs are propagated in Austria on more than 120 hectares. In addition, a seal for local, site specific seed and plant material as well as a land register of potential donor sites for the collection of native plant material are under development.