As we mentioned previously, a large portion of the Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management idea is the planting of native prairie vegetation.
At one time in the state of Iowa, prairie eco-systems accounted for 85% of the total land covered. The other 15% was timber and water. Today, less than 1/10th of 1% of the original 85% remains. We have lost a sickening amount of our states original vegetation and one of the world’s most misunderstood natural resources.
The prairie provided the nutrients and the soil building to create prosperous farms…ironically what caused it to disappear was the steel plow, the need for more food and the lust for land and money.
Prairies are however tough eco-systems and pockets of them still remain with us today. They remain in places like roadsides, railroad right-of-ways, and back pieces of ground that nobody wanted to plow. These are the last pieces of, “original Iowa”.
Although we will never again see the diversity of an original native prairie, however, we can come close by looking at these remnants and by doing proper prairie reconstructions.
No longer do we strive for solid stands of switchgrass. We strive for diversity. There is strength in vegetation diversity. If one species gets weak due to disease or a parasite, the others pick up the slack.
Vast stretches of native prairies have been lost, but using integrated approaches, we can use pieces of them to make our roadsides stronger.