At the OSU Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center in eastern Oregon I have been working on some restoration plots along the field margins. Field margins, the small corners and sides of agricultural fields, are largely unmanaged and can contain many weeds that will propagate in neighboring crops. Recently there has been a growing interest in restoring field margins with native plants to increase native biodiversity, reduce soil erosion, and provide buffers. I am interested in using these areas to create natural habitats for invertebrates and enhance insect-mediated ecosystem services such as crop pollination and pest control. Did you know that native bee pollination can triple crop production?
To enhance these services, we planted over 2000 native plants in 24 field margin plots. The plants included bluebunch wheatgrass, Sandberg's bluegrass, bottlebrush squirreltail, Carey's balsamroot, common yarrow, and Lewis flax. All of these plants are found in local native grasslands and the last three are bee pollinated. Some of the plants grew very well and some we have yet to see germinate and may take a few years to establish. To the right you can see common yarrow with some buds on it that is about 18 inches tall. I am hoping that these native plants species will attract beneficial invertebrates (i.e. native bees, spiders, etc.) that can benefit our crops.
In the next set of photos you can see a before and after of the plots. The before is immediately after planting in September (following the dry season). The after photo shows growth in the plot after five months. Most of the growth is common weeds. We had a lot of problems with residual weeds in the plots. In several plots the weeds were several feet tall! To get rid of the weeds we mowed all of the plots twice this spring before the native plants germinated.
To read more about why I restored the field margins and some of the benefits you can visit my personal webpage here:
Lauren Smith is currently a PhD student at Oregon State University researching the effect of grassland restoration on native bee and spider communities. Visit her website here.