The Plants Materials Program has a 70-year track record of finding plant solutions to help respond to critical natural resource challenges.
"Improving conservation plants is integral to protecting America's working lands," said Bruce Knight, chief of Natural Resources Conservation Services.
Since the 1930s, the program has developed plant solutions for restoring the country's most critical resource concerns. Its mission is to develop, test and transfer effective state-of-the-art plant science technology to meet customer and resource needs. The conservation plants and plant technology developed by the program form the foundation for most of the Natural Resources Conservation Services' vegetative conservation practices.
The Manhattan Plant Materials Center is one of 26 plant materials centers in the nation. It serves a diverse region of the heartland, including Kansas, Nebraska, northern Oklahoma and eastern Colorado. Since 1936, the center has selected plants and developed new technologies for America's heartland, including the area's remaining native grasslands and riparian and wetland habitats.
More than 30 improved conservation plants, including varieties of Illinois bundleflower, common reed, switchgrass, bur oak, prairie coneflower and little blue stem have been released. The program has provided plant materials and technologies for the Conservation Reserve Program seeding enhancements, disturbed site reclamation, planting and harvesting native plants, and restoring historical prairie.
The program cooperates with public, private, commercial and tribal partners, and land managers to apply new conservation methods using plants. It collects, selects and releases grasses, legumes, wildflowers, trees and shrubs as a natural way to address conservation issues and re-establish ecosystem function.
The Manhattan center has identified several resource issues:
- Develop plants used for windbreaks.
- Utilize plants, especially native, for improved wildlife habitat.
- Develop plants and technology to improve grazing on range, pasture and forest lands.
- Develop plants and techniques for stabilizing highly erosive sites.
- Improve water quality by minimizing inland shoreline erosion using plants and advanced techniques.
- Assist American Indian tribes with projects to protect and produce culturally significant plants.
For more information about the program, go to http://plantmaterials.nrcs.usda.gov/kspmc/.
-- Patrick Broyles is a soil conservationist for Natural Resources Conservation Service in Manhattan.