Climate Land Leaders share tips on Reed canary grass

Rocky Casillas blog, featured, news

Climate Land Leaders have a common foe: Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea), a perennial plant that typically invades wetlands and floodplains and crowds out more desirable species. Recently the Climate Land Leaders shared tips about beating  — or at least managing – this ubiquitous adversary.

At the Sharing Our Roots Farm, the pesky plant appears in the riparian buffer edge of Mud Creek, at the water tile outlet, in and around a wetland and a natural area enrolled in the RIM (Reinvest in Minnesota) program, according to Co-Farm Manager Josie Trople. For Mary Damm, owner of PrairieQuest Farm in Northeast Iowa, the invasive surrounds a pond on her farm.

Mary shares that “Joy Zedler, retired professor from the University of Wisconsin, researched Reed canary grass for many years in restored prairies at the UW Arboretum as well as other sites near Madison. She found that Reed canary grows very well in high nutrient (fertilizer) environments (farms or lawns) and outcompetes native wetland plants. As long as there is an input of nutrients, Reed canary thrives. Period.”

One prairie expert told Mary she should look at the grass as a “friend” as it is taking up the excess nutrients that would otherwise go into her pond.

Several of the Climate Land Leaders have used herbicides to handle this pesky invasive but are interested in other alternatives. Joe and Sylvia Luetmer, Preservation Farms near Alexandria, have permission to mow/hay annually on a large tract of land in the Wetlands Reserve Program to control for willow and other woody brush. “This area was dominated by Reed canary,” says Joe. “An unexpected benefit from mowing is that the Reed canary is no longer dominant and native sedges and grasses are beginning to emerge from the old seed bank. Hopefully this trend continues.”

With one exception, the Reed canary on the Sharing Our Roots Farm appears in areas that are conserved through permanent natural conservation easements that include management plans to help manage and reduce Reed canary populations, including mowing and prescribed burns.

Maggie McQuown, who, with her husband Steve Turman, owns Resilient Farm in Southwest Iowa, reports that an ecologist colleague is experimenting using the native plant Swamp Betony to control Reed canary around his pond with good results.

Climate Land Leaders, an initiative of Sharing Our Roots Farm, provides community and support to help farmland owners mitigate the climate crisis. For more information:

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