Native Warm Season Grasses?

Discussion in 'Native Habitat Management' started by SwampCat, Jul 14, 2017.

  1. SwampCat

    SwampCat Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    I have some pasture on my place that had been heavily grazed before I bought it. Fescue was well established. I have what is called a blackland soil type. Calcareous soil, high in lime. Natural pH is 7.5. Grasses do great. Composites, too. About the only trees that do well are persimmon, honey locust, cedar, and Chinkapin Oak. I have been somewhat successful in converting some of the fescue acreage to NWSG. I have had biologists from both our G&F division and the state's Natural Heritage Commission visit my place - and they both recommended burning the NWSG on an 18 month rotation - burn in February, followed by an August burn 18 months later, followed by another Feb burn 18 months after that - and so on. This is to keep invasives to a minimum and also slow down the persimmon and honey locust. However, doing this means every other spring, there is no residual cover - the grass is less than knee high during fawning and turkey nesting season. I have no quail. I have no wildlife that uses it. I have much more use by deer in Johnson grass - for bedding and fawning - than in my hard earned NWSG. I guess I could spray to kill the persimmons, cedars, and locust and not burn or bush hog every 18 months. I like the NWSG just because it is native. But I don't see it providing anymore wildlife benefit than a weedy pasture (void of fescue of course) - and probably less that a weedy pasture. In fact, a lot of the wildflower diversity that was present after the cows were removed has been choked out by the grasses. Am I missing something?
     
  2. j-bird

    j-bird Well-Known Member

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    Folks seem to have mixed results with NWSG stands. The one thing I have heard and have seen myself is that in most cases deer prefer to relate to some other "structure" in the grass. I have found the deer prefer to lay next to a downed tree top, cluster of saplings or even near a cedar tree in a seemingly sea of tall grass. I actually am working on a project were I have planted cedars in a pattern and then planted switchgrass to see if I can get the deer to relate to these trees where I want them to be. I just did this in spring so I don't have any real evidence at the moment one way or the other of success/failure.I also encourage diversity in my grass as well. I like a mix of broadleaf "weeds" - I get a lot of goldenrod, common ragweed, giant ragweed and others. This adds food, cover and diversity that I think is more attractive to deer and other wildlife vs just a pure stand of sat switchgrass. All of my NWSG plantings currently are narrow buffers of 120' wide or so and the deer still relate tot he edge with another cover type more than anywhere else. Is also see far more advantage to NSWG in the fall and winter for the cover aspect than I do in the late spring thru late summer where other cover types are holding leaves as well.

    I don;t know if this helps you much at all or not. I do know in my situation NWSG has helped increase cover and plant diversity on my property in ways I would not have been able to do otherwise. I agree in that cover like overgrown pasture can also be great tools to hold deer as well. You could even consider a patch-work like approach between the two cover types as well.
     
  3. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    That's interesting. I have nearly 60 acres of NWSGs that have been in for 8 years, and have never been burned. Everyone who has looked at them think they look great.

    I do, however, agree that a field of tall weeds can make great cover and be as good or better (if they are weeds that will stand up during winter.

    There's lots of bad advice out there concerning NWSGs. I understand your frustration with it.

    Best wishes.
     
  4. DrDirtNap

    DrDirtNap Active Member

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    Location:
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    Hardiness Zone:
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    Swampcat, I tend to agree with you. I converted some soybean fields to CRP native grass about 6 years ago and I can't tell that anything is really using them now...deer or turkey. You are right on the maintenance as well; sweetgums, maple and other woody species will take over if you don't burn, spray or mow it occasionally...at least that's what I'm experiencing. Right now I wished I had kept renting it to my neighbor for soybean production. I don't believe all the hype around NWSG and its attractiveness for wildlife.
     
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  5. Goldentriangle

    Goldentriangle Active Member

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    It seems that deer react differently to NWSG in different regions. In my area in the Midwest, a lot of crp are deer magnets. On my cousin's farm in southeast Iowa, there are giants that die of old age in crp that live their entire lives there ( other than nighttime feeding). The common denominator I see in my area is the crp that holds deer is usually very thick and heavy with switch. The best fields I see are extremely thick with plenty of different weeds, heavy on tallgrass with a brushy fencerow bordering it.
    On my small stand I have a mix of switch, big bluestem, and Indian grass. I burn every other spring in May per Lickcreek's instructions. I am planning on simulating a fencerow with native shrubs such as elderberry, ninebark, American plum etc. I have plenty of natural weeds currently along with some woody growth but my burn schedule seems to keep it under control. I am in my 6th year with this and it just keeps getting better for deer. I wish they we had more but this farm is still a decent source of income from crops for my Inlaws.
    I feel that as I create this "fencerow" and a few islands of native shrubs, it will continue to improve my deer cover/habitat.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  6. SwampCat

    SwampCat Well-Known Member

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    I agree about deer reacting different in different regions. My business partner has a farm in GA, where he has established some NWSG - in particular, Switch. Deer seldom use it, but the hogs love it. I think in the south, we probably have a lot more, thick, dense cover besides grasses than in a lot of other areas of the country.

    Burning every other spring - in May - means you have no cover every other year for fawning or nesting. That is one of the things that concerns me about the burning schedule I was advised. I wanted the areas to be well suited for fawning and nesting cover - every year - not just every other year. We have no upland birds, and very few rabbits - so the native grasses don't really have an appeal here for small game.
     
  7. j-bird

    j-bird Well-Known Member

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    I was told to only burn 1/3 of my NWSG a year that way you still retain some food/cover while the burnt portion recovers.
     
  8. David

    David Active Member

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    Location:
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    I am no expert, so i would listen to others more than me. But a casual observation is that your too attached to an idea...that being having a healthy NWSG stand to improve wildlife. Is the NWSG more important that the deer?



    this is year three of one of my fields...
    20170714_180022.jpg
    its full of small trees...some up to 10 feet tall now. it will get burned this winter. Right now it is holding 2-4 fawns and probably many more mature does are bedding in it. they love the woody stuff to bed in/near. alot of this is native....alot is not.


    "I have no wildlife that uses it. I have much more use by deer in Johnson grass - for bedding and fawning - than in my hard earned NWSG. I guess I could spray to kill the persimmons, cedars, and locust and not burn or bush hog every 18 months. I like the NWSG just because it is native. But I don't see it providing anymore wildlife benefit than a weedy pasture (void of fescue of course) - and probably less that a weedy pasture."

    Then turn it into a weedy and woody pasture and let the persimmons put on some fruit. it aint as pretty but it will hold and feed deer.
     
  9. SwampCat

    SwampCat Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    Hardiness Zone:
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    I worked hard to get what nwsg I have - maybe about four or five acres - and yes, a lot of it is the principle of the thing. I was going to put another 10 acres or so in nwsg - but going to pass on that now.
     

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