Soil Health and Regenerative Agriculture

Planting landfills with native grasses and wildflowers as vegetative cover on closed landfills creates durable cover, and makes friends with neighbors, including regulators and other stakeholders. This approach works hand-in-glove with desires to realize new uses and benefits for these mounded landscape features.

We describe here the benefits of using natives for closed landfill vegetation. We also address some of the common worries.

Native plants are inextricably linked to any quest to improve soil health.

The term Soil Health has been succinctly defined as “the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans.” (Natural Resources Conservation Service)

Regenerative Agriculture is a system of agricultural precepts and practices implemented to improve soil health and integrate ecological services such as:

  • soil enrichment
  • watershed health improvement
  • biodiversity protection
  • carbon sequestration
  • soil microbial diversification
  • biodiversity improvements of other life on the land
  • direct human health benefits through improved food nutritional quality

When native plant species are integrated with agriculture, we begin to re-establish the very vegetation that helped develop the rich agricultural soils of the Midwest and elsewhere in the world. We can’t turn back the clock on past practices, but we can improve crop productivity, yields, and increase nutritive values, mitigate effects of climate change, improve water quality, and create habitat for pollinators and wildlife.

The New, Improved Buffer Strips – Prairie STRIPS

New to the use of native plants? If you are a farmer, we encourage you to start by planting prairie STRIPS. The Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips or STRIPS program, under development and testing for 10 years, has shown measurable benefits for soil, water, and biodiversity. Our client services staff are trained in the STRIPS program and ready to assist you in starting your own prairie STRIPS.

What are Prairie STRIPS? They are a conservation practice developed by Iowa State University to strategically integrate small amounts of prairie into agriculture fields via contour buffer strips and  farm field edge of field filter strips.

Researchers “envision a future in which prairie strips are integrated with other agricultural conservation practices to foster the production of healthy food and sustainable fuel, and the protection and maintenance of clean water, resilient soils, and diverse and abundant wildlife and beneficial insects.”

We know from our own work in growing native plants how prairie STRIPS will attract pollinators that, in turn, increase crop productivity. Native plants also provide habitat for beneficial predatory insects that control pests. These “good guys” (e.g., soldier beetles, rove beetles, damsel bugs, big-eyed bugs, flower flies, ladybird beetles, and predatory wasps) control crop enemies (e.g., aphids, mites, thrips, spider mites, scales, leafhoppers, and slugs). The result? Healthier crops and overall reduction in insecticide use with its costs and secondary effects. The crop yield improvements for even everyday crops, such as soybeans have documented 13-20% increases.

Your investment in planting STRIPS can start to pay for itself.

Check out our pre-designed Prairie STRIPS seed mixes and pollinator mixes here.  More information on the Prairie STRIPS program is available here from the FDA.

And, ask our Prairie Strips trained staff to custom design mixtures that match your budget and goals by calling (608) 897-8641 or emailing nursery.service@appliedeco.com.

More Good News

Your planting of natives may be eligible for one or more cost-sharing programs administered by the NRCS (USDA). These programs are subject to change under each year’s Farm Bill.  In 2020, the STRIPS program is subsidized by the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

For more information about our ground-breaking work on soil health and regenerative agriculture, visit our sister site, Applied Ecological Services.