Farmscaping with Native Plants Field Days

Farmscaping for Beneficials (FSB) Staff, the native plant experts at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Plant Materials Center (PMC) in Corvallis, and the conservationists at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation (Xerces) www.xerces.org have been providing a field day on how to “scape” your farm with native plants since 2008. The field day which began as a four hour event, is held at the PMC’s Schmidt Farm in Corvallis and has evolved into a full action-packed day of learning and discovery! In the afternoon the technical details needed to install and enhance diverse habitat features within various agricultural production systems is presented. This includes presentations on site selection and preparation practices, habitat establishment techniques with real Oregon farm examples, seed selection and a chance to practice seeding rate calculations. Machinery used to do site soil preparation and site weeding is demonstrated. The mornings are devoted to learning appropriate native plant selection choices and the beneficial insect and native pollinators associated with them.

Amy Bartow, PMC staff, describes seeder
Amy Bartow, PMC staff, describes seeder

At the PMC’s Schmidt Farm fields and fields of flowering native plants are teeming with native pollinators and beneficial insects which provide an excellent opportunity for field identification on the wing. There are two demonstration hedgerows with diverse configurations, blocks of native grasses and established rows of native woody plants. Participants leave with a greater appreciation for the natural biodiversity that exists around us and what opportunities exist to successfully heighten that biodiversity on their own farms. The field days provide participants a unique opportunity to understand and experience how the complex web of biodiversity and crop production co-exist from veteran botanists, conservationists, entomologists, and the plants and insects themselves!

Amy Bartow, PMC staff, describes seeder

See a video and slideshow of the 2013 5th Annual Farmscaping with Native Plants Field Day.

Five take home points from the 5th Annual Farmscaping with Natives Field Day

  1. Invertebrate predators, parasitoids and pollinators can all benefit from on-farm pollen and nectar sources at some point in their lives.
  2. A Farmscaping Rule of Thumb: make blossom happen on your farm all season long.
  3. In-field insectary plantings include insectary strips, blocks and end rows, flowering cover crops and flowering crops.
  4. Some perennial insectary plantings which can require up to 1.5 years of site preparation before establishment include managed field edges, hedgerows and beetle banks.
  5. Another Farmscaping Rule of Thumb: try bringing the positive attributes of field edges; diversity of blossom and structure, alternate prey and undisturbed areas for shelter, reproduction, and overwintering into your fields.
A Field of Oregon Sunshine at Corvallis PMC
A field of Oregon Sunshine at Corvallis PMC

Because it can’t all be done in one day, in 2010 the PMC and FSB Program began a winter workshops to teach farmers how to propagate and use woody native plants in insectary habitats. You can review and agenda and summary of a workshop.

A Field of Oregon Sunshine at Corvallis PMC A Field of Oregon Sunshine at Corvallis PMC
Participants cutting willow slips and planting slips in new hedgerow

A bit more about the sponsors: Since 1957, the Corvallis NRCS PMC has selected and developed conservation plants and planting technology to solve resource concerns critical to the Pacific Northwest. Most of their focus is on native grasses, forbs and shrubs. The PMC staff is some of Oregon’s most knowledgeable native plant propagators. Schmidt Farm is their farm for growing these native plants just one mile west of their Corvallis offices.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is a non-profit organization established in 1971 to protect endangered invertebrate species, produce resources on invertebrate conservation and train conservationists and farmers to protect and manage habitat for pollinators and other invertebrates.

The Integrated Plant Protection Center (IPPC) was formed in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University (OSU) in 1967, and has been conducting research and outreach in a state, national and international setting ever since. The IPPC works to implement integrated pest management (IPM) practices wherever these are needed. This program of implementation is guided by the National Roadmap for IPM, which has established goals for delivering economically sustainable pest management with lower costs to human health and to the environment in the USA. IPPC’s 10 year old, Farmscaping for Beneficials Program conducts farmer-centric research in conservation biological control and facilitates the promotion, adoption and outreach of functional agricultural biodiversity practices throughout the western US.

Mace Vaughan (Xerces, Pollinator Program), Gwendolyn Ellen (IPPC, Farmscaping for Beneficials Program) and Paul Jepson (IPPC, OSU) have been working together for over 7 years providing detailed, hands-on looks into the identification, biology, and ecology of native bees, predators and parasitoids and the on-farm habitat that supports them within farming systems across the west. They joined ranks five years ago with the staff at the Corvallis, NRCS Plant Materials Center under the direction of Joe Williams to wed the PMC’s collective native seed production expertise with their own functional agricultural biodiversity expertise to produce informative, interactive workshops for farmers and conservationists on farmscaping with native plants.

Mace at Goldenrod
Mace at Goldenrod
Joe at hedgerow
Joe at hedgerow
Gwendolyn with mic
Gwendolyn with mic
Paul teaching
Paul teaching