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Nov 16

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Praise for Native Grassland Prairies

Native prairie grasses aren’t just pretty—they also improve water quality across the Midwest. Listen up:

How do we love native grassland prairies?

Bluestem (left) and switchgrass (right) contribute to water-friendlier ecosystems. (via USFWS)

Bluestem (left) and switchgrass (right) contribute to water-friendlier ecosystems. (via USFWS)

Let us count the ways—or at least, let us recount the number one water-related way: When restored, native grassland prairies can improve water quality big-time, and help prevent erosion during heavy rains.

Once upon a time, tall prairie grasses such as blue stem and switchgrass dominated the landscape of America’s Midwest, now, not so much.

With prairie restoration, however, more of these grasses can clean water as it percolates through their dense root systems, which can grow up to 15 feet deep. Such long roots stabilize the soil and improve it when they decompose.

Distinguished Professor Carter Johnson of South Dakota State University explains: “It’s very hard to have any erosion at all with rain or snow melt or anything, with these grasses clinging on tightly to our soil.”

He says when some row crops are converted back into grasslands for hay or grazing, soil and water quality improve—and both the environment and farmers can profit.

Grow, grasslands, grow!

Get schooled:

The fine print:

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.currentcast.org/green-infrastructure/prairie-grasses/