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Fact Sheet 2013–3049

Tallgrass Prairie Restoration—Seeding for Success

By Diane L. Larson

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (1.03 MB)Abstract

Tallgrass prairie is one of the most imperiled ecosystems on Earth. A 2004 estimate indicated that only 2.4 percent of the original northern tallgrass prairie remained in the United States. If tallgrass prairie and the species dependent on it are to survive, management must include restoration of cropland and degraded prairies, in addition to preservation of the few remaining fragments. Despite the importance of restoration and its long history (the first tallgrass prairie restoration was started in 1935 at Curtis Prairie in Wisconsin), few studies have been undertaken with the goal of refining restoration practice. This fact sheet contains the results of one such study, started in 2005, in which we compared three seeding methods (dormant-season broadcast, growing-season broadcast, and growing-season drill) fully crossed with low (10-), medium (20-), and high (34-species) seed mixes replicated 12 times on each of 9 former agricultural fields in Minnesota and Iowa. Plots were 12.2 x 12.2 meters (m) and occupied about 1.6 hectares (ha) (4 acres) of each field. A “successful” restoration is one in which cover and richness of planted species is maximized and cover of exotic and invasive species, especially the noxious weed Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense), is minimized. Details of the planting methods can be located in Larson and others (2011).

First posted July 26, 2013

For additional information contact:
Director, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
U.S. Geological Survey
8711 37th Street Southeast
Jamestown, North Dakota 58401

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Suggested citation:

Larson, D.L., 2013, Tallgrass prairie restoration—Seeding for success: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2013–3049, 2 p.,


Do Cover and Richness of Planted and Exotic Species Vary with Planting Method?

Can We Design a Seed Mix to Target a Particular Invasive Species?

References Cited

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