Tallgrass Prairie Center

Prairie On Farms

What is the Prairie on Farms Project?

There is increasing interest in planting prairie on farms, for soil and water conservation as well as wildlife habitat and personal enjoyment.  The Tallgrass Prairie Center is embarking on a new project  to share our knowledge of prairie reconstruction and management techniques with rural landowners and technical service providers.  

In particular, the new technique  of planting prairie right in the field, in strips that lie roughly on the contour (while fitting in with farming operations) has become increasingly popular.  Prairie strips can stop erosion, reduce nutrient loss, improve soil quality and support monarch butterflies and other wildlife.  

2015 was a very successful first year for the Prairie on Farms project. We provided four demonstration field days for land managers, technical services providers and producers; one Plant ID workshops; one Prescribed Fire workshops; launched the Iowa Online Seed Calculator; and planted diverse prairie strips on seven different agricultural farms in the Cedar River Watershed. We are excited to continue this momentum into 2016. 

We will continue to hold how-to workshops and field tours, and provide technical guides and other educational materials both in print and on this website.  A central element of the project is to work with and support the technical service providers in government and industry who provide prairie reconstruction services to land owners.  If you would like to learn more about planting prairie on your agricultural field or to be invited to upcoming demonstration field days please contact ashley.kittle@uni.edu

The Prairies on Farms project is funded by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Center, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service and Monarch Joint Venture.  We are proud to collaborate with the Iowa State University STRIPs project, the Miller Creek Watershed ProjectPractical Farmers of IowaPeople's Company, and Monarch Joint Venture.

Prairie on Farms Working Group

The Prairie on Farms project held its first Working Group meeting on April 21, 2016. The goal of the meeting was to network with other professionals who value conservation practices for water quality and pollinator habitat purposes.  The working group discussed ways to strengthen conservation resource efforts that are facing the state and gained familiarity with the newly launched Iowa Prairie Seed Calculator. The Iowa Prairie Seed Calculator is a free tool that recommends a custom blend of grasses, sedges, legumes and other forbs specifically for your planting site. Users have complete control to add or subtract species and it provides an easy way to send the seed mix out for bid. Participants were walked through step by step how to use the calculator. A YouTube video of this tutorial is now available; watch the demonstration now!

In addition to learning about the Iowa Prairie Seed Calculator, attendees shared thoughtful, provoking reflections on what challenges and opportunities they see in their own jobs. These reflections led to meaningful conversations which identified areas of overlap and ways we can work together for wildlife, pollinator and water quality conservation efforts.  We plan to hold another working group meeting in the winter of 2017 to continue these conservations. If you are a professional in the conservation, wildlife, pollinator, water quality improvement or technical services provider field and are interested in learning more about future working group meetings, please contact ashley.kittle@uni.edu.

Prairie On Farms Working Group_April 2016


Prairie on Farms hosted demonstration field days on September 14th in Dysart, IA and September 16th in Nashua, IA.  The workshops focused on practical uses of prairie for water quality improvement efforts and pollinator habitat, stand evaluation (comparison of an economy mix, diversity mix, and pollinator mix plantings, seedling ID, and how to determine if a planting was successful) and first and second year maintenance (weed control, and spot spraying techniques).

The demonstration sites and field days were sponsored by Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the New York Community Trust, Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Approximately 70 participants attended the two workshops.  For more information on upcoming meetings and educational opportunities, contact Ashley Kittle at ashley.kittle@uni.edu or call #319-273-3828.

Participants learn about and walk through an in-field prairie strip.

Participants learn and walk through an in-field prairie strip planted in Dysart.

Seedling ID on first year planting

Dr. Justin Meissen identifies prairie seedlings in a recent prairie buffer strip planted in Dysart.

benefits of 1st year mowing

The importance and benefits of first year mowing on prairie plantings are discussed.