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GLIN==> Innovative Erosion Control Project Using Native Plants in Kalamazoo, MI

Posted on behalf of Theresa Mau-Crimmins

A highly eroded portion of property along the Kalamazoo River owned by
Graphic Packaging Corporation of Kalamazoo, Michigan was planted in
fall, 2000 with native prairie grasses and wildflowers, a unique method
for soil stabilization at industrial properties.  The experiment, funded
by a grant through the Great Lakes Commission and carried out by KIESER
& ASSOCIATES of Kalamazoo, Michigan, aims to demonstrate the feasibility
of using native grass and flower mixes at industrial sites.  Additional
benefits of the project include habitat creation for grassland insects,
opportunities for prairie education, and a colorful attraction along the
river corridor throughout the year.  More information about the project
is available at http://www.kieser-associates.com/prairie.

The project site, measuring approximately 5 acres in size, was divided
into three plots of approximately equal size. The southern plot was
planted in the conventional fashion, adding topsoil and using turf
grasses. The center plot was also spread with topsoil, but was planted
in native prairie grasses and wildflowers. The northern plot received no
topsoil and was planted with prairie plants.

The results of the 2001 growing season support the hypothesis that
native grasses and flowers are appropriate forms of ground cover for
industrial sites where soil quality is poor.  The native plants
occurring on the northern plot, without the aid of topsoil, outperformed
the plants on the other two plots, remaining green and flowering
throughout the growing season.  Very few weeds were observed on this
plot, demonstrating that such non-native plants cannot tolerate the
harsh conditions of poor soil and lack of moisture existing at the site.

Alternatively, weeds flourished on the middle plot, where topsoil had
been applied.  A small number of native prairie seedlings were observed
struggling against the weeds on this plot only after the thick tangle of
weeds had been mowed in mid-summer.  Both the weeds of the middle plot
and the turf grasses planted on the southern plot went dormant partway
through the summer, unable to tolerate the hot, dry conditions.  Photos
and additional information are provided at the recently updated
http://www.kieser-associates.com/prairie.  The plots will be monitored
for several years to determine the short and long-term effects of such a

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