ChicoryLane Field Day:
What is a pollinator field and why plant one?
A pollinator field provides plant species that are attractive to and support insects and birds that provide necessary pollination for crops and other trees/plants. Common pollinators include bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, and beetles. Pollinators have been declining in recent years because of disease, pesticide misuse, and loss of habitat and plant diversity. To counter these effects, farmers and other landowners can plant support species, either within crop fields or as separate pollinator fields. To assist them, several universities, including Penn State, have worked with seed companies, NRCS, and the Xerces Society to developed special pollination mixes. For example, see the Penn State/Ernst Seed discussion of pollinator habitats. Descriptions of specific Ernst pollinator seed mixes are not easily accessible, but you can find details for several of them here.
What is a grassland and why plant one?
One source defines a grassland as "An area that is dominated by grass or grasslike vegetation. Moderately dry climatic conditions and seasonal disturbances, such as floods or fires, are generally conducive to the growth of grasses and prohibitive of that of trees and shrubs." Grasslands provide a number of benefits to the environment. They provide support (along with more specific pollinator plantings) for pollinating insects and birds. They reduce soil erosion, especially on steep slopes, and help improve water quality, particularly where the main contaminants are soil particulate matter and surface nutrients. They also enhance wildlife by providing both food and nesting areas/shelter. And, they offer esthetic relief to the eye with their natural beauty.
How can I recognize common warm-season grasses?
Seeing them first hand is the best way. Pictures never quite work since it's hard to see details and get a sense of size. The ChicoryLane grassland includes five warm season grasses and two cool season ones, which can be viewed up close. Warm season ones include Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and Side Oats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula). Cool season ones include Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata) and Timothy (Phleum pratense). They can be seen first-hand and up close during the FieldDay.
What maintenance is needed for a grassland?
Control of invasives is the most important one. This can be done by spraying with herbicides and spot mowing. If your grassland is under contract, you may need to get permission to mow during certain times of the year and/or years of the contract. In earlier times, fires (often set by lightning) provided a natural aid against invasives and helped to rejuvenate grassslands. Today, managing a grassland fire must be done with great care and expert help, particularly if the tract is in a populated area. Another strategy that ChicoryLane is trying as an alternative to fire is area mowing (an acre or two at a time) to promote growth of desired grasses and wildflowers while suppressing woody species.
NRCS - What is it and what services does it offer?
NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), formerly U.S. Soil Conservation Service, is an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its missions are to help people reduce soil erosion, enhance water supplies, improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat, and reduce damages caused by floods and other natural disasters. Public benefits include enhanced natural resources that help sustain agricultural productivity and environmental quality while supporting continued economic development, recreation, and scenic beauty. Among the services most useful to landowners are its CREP and WHIP programs. For additional information, see http://www.pa.nrcs.usda.gov/.
CREP - What is it?
CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) is a voluntary land retirement program that helps agricultural producers protect environmentally sensitive land, decrease erosion, restore wildlife habitat, and safeguard ground and surface water. Its primary focus is removing marginal farmland from agricultural production and converting it to more suitable environmental and habitat improvement practices. Specific programs help landowners develop and restore wetlands, develop forest and grassland buffers, and restore habitats to benefit declining species of plants and animals. CREP programs are usually administered through 10-15 year contracts. For additional information, see http://www.pa.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/CREP/crp.html.
WHIP - what is it?
WHIP (Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program) is a program for landowners who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat and/or reduce the impact of invasive species. Services include both technical help and cost sharing financial incentives. Contracts are generally 1 - 3 years and, thus, shorter in duration than CREP agreements. For additional information, see http://www.pa.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/whip/index.html.
Programs offered by other agencies?
NRCS staff work closely with people from a number of other government as well a non-governmental agencies. Representatives from several of those agencies are participating in the field day. Information about their programs and services is available from them or on their pages included in this Web site.
Why are wetlands important?
Wetlands are important for a number of reasons. They provide a natural filter for water, helping to remove nutrients and particles or sediments. They provide storage for water, helping to reduce flooding and to increase groundwater recharge. They also provide habitat for a number of fish, animals, birds, and insects. They offer numerous opportunities for hunting, fishing, and other forms of recreation. And, they provide aesthetic enjoyment and areas/moments of solitude for human recharging, as well.
Are there different kinds of wetlands?
Yes. According to Jean Fike's excellent Terrestrial & Palustrine Plant Communities of Pennsylvania, the state includes some 21 different kinds of wetlands, and if forests, woodlands, and shrublands that occur in generally wet conditions are included, the total is more than 50. ChicoryLane has 6 or 7 different types of wetlands, including a Wet Meadow, a Cat-tail Marsh, an Old Farm Pond (not recognized by Fike), a pair of Herbaceous Vernal Pools, a Black Willow Shrub Wetland, and a Red Maple - Mixed Shrub Palustrine Woodland. It also has riparian areas created by two streams that flow through the property.
What are some common invasives often found in wetlands and how can they be controlled?
Because of the abundance of moisture, wetlands provide ideal growing conditions for several invasives, although these plants don't neglect dryer adjacent areas. Some that ChicoryLane is plagued with include Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Tartarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), and Multiflora Rose (Rosa Multiflora). They have also begun to view American Elm (Ulmus americana), Black Walnuts (Juglans nigra), and Goldenrod (its many different varieties) as invasives. A Loosestrife-eating beetle (Galeruella) has recently been introduced in the area and, as it spreads, shows signs of helping with control of that species. Similarly, the Rose rosette disease is spreading in the area and may become a natural control. For Honeysuckle, Autumn Olive, American Elm, and Black Walnut, the only options seem to be herbicide and/or cutting, but they require continual diligence. No practical control for goldenrod has been found yet.
Why are vernal pools interesting and what is involved in building one?
Vernal pools are very dynamic structures. They fill over the winter and then usually dry up -- all or in large part -- over the summer. The result is an ebb and flow of a variety of plants, animals, birds, and insects. The main requirements for building vernal pools, which are usually only several feet deep, are a bottom that will hold water (such as clay), a source of ground water that can flow into the pools, and a modest slope that can accommodate their shallow depth. Since many natural vernal pools occur in forests, many landowners will add logs and brush to theirs to provide cover and perching sites. A nice guide to both vernal pools and their construction is Thomas R. Biebighauser's A Guide to Creating Vernal Ponds.
What is a conservation easement?A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified organization, such as a land trust, or government agency that protects the natural, cultural, and/or historic resources (conservation values) of a property. Essentially, the landowner donates some of his or her property rights, such as the right to subdivide or the right to build structures. When a landowner grants a conservation easement, the landowner retains ownership of the property while agreeing to limit certain activities that may be harmful to the conservation values of the property. The landowner and land trust work together to determine which restricted and permitted land uses best accommodate the needs of both parties. This leaves the landowner free to use the property just as he or she did before the conservation easement agreement, as long as the use is consistent with the conditions of the conservation easement. The land trust then takes on the responsibility of ensuring the land is protected in perpetuity.
Why grant a conservation easement?A conservation easement is about the most permanent way to protect a property’s conservation values. The conservation easement is recognized by both state and federal governments. A landowner who donates a conservation easement can be assured that what he or she values most about the property will be protected in perpetuity, as the conservation easement is transferred with the deed and the terms of the conservation easement apply to all subsequent owners of the property. When a landowner donates a conservation easement, he or she is often donating rights (such as the right to develop) that have monetary value. Depending upon several factors, the landowner may qualify for an income tax deduction or for estate tax benefits.
How do I obtain more information about conservation easements??ClearWater Conservancy has been working with landowners to protect their lands for more than 30 years. A ClearWater Conservancy representative would be happy to meet with a landowner who desires more information about conservation easements. A representative may be reached by phone: 237-0400 or by email: email@example.com. You may visit our website: www.clearwaterconservancy.org or visit the website of the Land Trust Alliance, a national support organization for land trusts: www.lta.org to obtain additional information about conservation easements.
(Mario Giazzon & Carl Grabill)
What is a riparian area and why are they important?
A riparian area is the interface or boundary between a stream or river and the adjacent upland areas. Depending on topography, riparian areas may range from a few feet to 150 feet or more. They provide a number of useful functions. They help stabilize soils and can help reduce sedimentation. They provide environments and food sources for a number of species, and they can help moderate the temperature of streams. Stream banks often can accommodate footpaths, bike trails, and fishing sites, all of which contribute to human recreational needs. They may even increase property values.
What special concerns are there when managing riparian areas for wildlife?
Riparian areas are especially important for wildlife. They provide areas for breeding, nesting, foraging, escape cover, and resting. They also provide permanent or seasonal water sources. They provide travel corridors, especially as they adjoin upland areas. Snags and dead or fallen trees provide denning opportunities. When managing riparian areas for wildlife, allowing natural conditions and/or processes to continue and not, for example, allowing grazing or streambank development will pay dividends in the diversity of wildlife as well as their numbers.
What special needs do woodcock have?
American Woodcock migrate to and, in some cases, through central Pennsylvania beginning in late February. Those continuing on will usually have left by early May, but others will breed and remain through the summer here. They need several kinds of habitat, whether transients or seasonal residents. These include singing fields, feeding grounds, nesting, and roosting sites. Singing fields are open areas where males may peent. The peent is a sharp, almost electric-like buzz. The males utter several of these before taking off for dramatic display flights and descents. These areas must be clear and allow quick takeoff. Since woodcock feed almost exclusively on non-vertebrates, especially earthworms, they need moist, unlittered areas they can penetrate with their long beaks. Feeding areas are often riparian and are often alder and/or aspen new-growth thickets. As thickets transition to upland areas and include shrubs and small trees, they also serve for nesting and brooding. Finally, they need roosting areas. These are usually shrublands with grasses as well as small shrubs. For additional information, a good place to start is the Timberdoodle.org Web site.
How can woodcock habitats be improved?
The landscape context is important for this species in that all habitat requirements must be present over a relatively large area. This is especially important if a self-sustaining population is desired as opposed to the occasional occurrence. Therefore, collaborations amongst smaller landholders is critically important to the conservation of this species. In general, the two types of habitat that are most likely to require landowner intervention are the singing areas and the thickets needed for feeding and nesting. The singing fields are usually open areas a quarter- to half-acre in size that are adjacent to or near feeding areas. Grasses in take-off areas need to be 6 inches or less in height but may be interspersed with vegetation a little higher. Thickets for feeding and nesting should be quite dense. They are often created by clear cutting alder and/or aspen growths during their dormant seasons. The resulting dense sprouts will provide ideal habitats for woodcock but will have to be rejuvenated every 10 years or so as they mature.
(Tim Cole & Dave Jackson)
Planning a hardwood planting
Landowners can sometimes impose their will with respect to the species of trees they select for planting. However, their job will be much easier if they choose trees and shrubs that are native to the area and conditions. In central Pennsylvania, plant communities are defined by the long, parallel ridges. Different collections of species will be found from the ridge tops to the creek bottoms and from north- to south-facing slopes. For a given geographic area, plant communities will be determined by elevation, topography, soils, moisture availability, and sun light. In planning the ChicoryLane hardwood planting, they chose the Red Oak - Mixed Hardwood collection of species as their basis (see Jean Fike's Terrestrial & Palustrine Plant Communities of Pennsylvania, pp. 11-12 for details of this community). Tim Cole, of PA-DCNR, developed both a conceptual plan and a detailed tree-planting design for the project.
Protection, enclosures, and maintenance
It would be nice if seedling trees could just be planted and left to their own devices, but you are likely to get poor results this way. Tree seedlings need protection from deer browsing, rodent gnawing, and weather elements such as heat and drought. Protection is likely to be some type of individual tree enclosure. There are several choices here. (See Tree Shelters: A Multipurpose Management Tool) ChicoryLane uses standard 4-foot shelters, secured to a treated stake with plastic zip ties. They tried another configuration that included a 16-inch corrugated tube and a 4-foot circle of plastic construction fencing. The latter collapsed and had to be cut away, thereby providing no protection from deer browsing. Several agencies are now recommending 4-foot, stiff wire fencing enclosures around short (16-18 inch) tubes. These shelters are costly and labor-intensive. The 4-foot plastic tubes are often criticized for encouraging rapid height growth with little wind firmness and strength. This may cause some trees to snap off after emerging from the shelter on windy, open sites. ChicoryLane found that even if they do break, saplings usually quickly throw up another leader and are not seriously set back. Hardwood plantings will also benefit from the occasional spraying of an herbicide around their bases to control weed competition and discourage rodents. To provide access for spraying as well as for general maintenance and pruning, an access path is mowed next to each row. ChicoryLane cuts a single mower-width once or twice a year, always on the same side of the row, so that natural succession may take place in the unmowed areas.
To provide daytime seclusion as well as food, the ChicoryLane planting includes three game protection areas. The 12.8 acre field is very long and narrow, and triangular in shape. In each of the three corners is a 100-foot circular area that includes an outer ring of white pine, an inner ring of Norway spruce, and in the core a variety of food-bearing trees, including apple, crabapple, pear, hawthorn, and redbud. Their hope is that foragers, especially dear, may be attracted to these areas as opposed to browsing in the rest of the field! But that remains to be seen.
- Penn State Extension Webinar Series; Landowner Guide to Tree Planting Success (http://extension.psu.edu/private-forests/tools-resources/webinars/previous/forestry-series/tree-planting).
- Penn State Extension; Tree Shelters: A Multipurpose Management Tool (http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/uh169.pdf).
- Cornell Cooperative Extension; Northeastern Tree Planting and Reforestation (http://cce.cornell.edu/Environment/Documents/PDFs/TreePlantingBulletin12-09.pdf)
- Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Landowner Guide to Buffer Success (http://www.pa.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/CREP/Documents/LandownerGuide_103007.pdf).
- Some of the vendors ChicoryLane has enjoyed working with are listed in their Web site's Resources section.
(Tim Cole, Dave Jackson, Mario Giazzon, & Adam Smith)\
Importance of planning for succession, especially in light of die-offs
Early in the last century there was the chestnut blight. Then there was the Dutch elm disease. Now we have the hemlock woolly adelgid. Soon we will see the effects of the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle. And on and on it goes. Change has always been a fact of life for forests but now natural successiion is being altered by invasive plants and exotic insect introductions. Consequently, managing successional forests is an increasingly important activity. Natural succession to native forest conditions just does not occur in many areas any longer
Site preparation and brush management
While managing early successional forests, brush and shrub management is going to be the most significant issue to manage. As trees die from these newly introduced insects and diseases, open areas are often overtaken by invasive shrubs such as autumn olive, multiflora rose, shrub honesuckle, and Japanese barberry. These invasives need to be removed or controlled to allow preferred trees to grow. Cutting will provide only temporary help as most invasive shrubs will quicly resprout. A more permanent solution is spraying with an appropriate herbecide solution. ChicoryLane is experimenting with both approaches. Particularly promising is folinar and basal spraying to be followed by cutting once the invasive shrubs have died. The active ingredients used are glyphosate (Rodeo) and Triclopyr (Garlon 4). Both are very effective and do not require a pesticide certification license as long as they are applied by the landowner to their own property. Be sure to read and follow the label.
Releasing in-place trees and shrubs
Prior to treatng invasive shrubs in an early successional forest, one should find and mark desired trees and shrubs to be released. Otherwise, they may be damaged or killed during cutting or spraying. When spraying, be sure to direct spray away from desirable plants, if possible. Once the invasives are under control, one may wish to protect desirable trees and shrubs, particularly if they are small, with wire cages or shelters, as with newly planted trees. ChcoryLane has used tree shelters for this with good success.
Planting additional native trees and shrubs
Once an early successional forest has been cleared of invasives and desired trees identified and released, one can add other desirable native trees and shrubs by planting. As with any planting, selecting species consistent with what would be a natural plant community for the site is desirable. With the likely high proportion of open space and sunlight reaching the forest floor, this would be a good time to include shrubs and mid-story trees. ChicoryLane is particularly partial to serviceberry, redbud, flowering dogwood, and virburnum as well as some larger trees not currently found on the property, such as sassafras, mulberry, and sycamore. Many of these species will provide good production of seeds and fruit for wildlife.
Penn State Extension; Herbicides and Forest Vegetation Management (http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/uh174.pdf).
Penn State Extension; Forest Vegetation Management (http://extension.psu.edu/fvm).
Penn State; Plant Science Publications (http://plantscience.psu.edu/research/projects/vegetative-management/publications).
August 17, 2012