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Posted November 29, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Native warm-season grass grants available

By Sally Voth

Landowners now can apply for grass grants and help researchers at the same time.

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal has grants available from the National Forest Foundation that will go toward restoring native warm-season grasses.

The grants are for up to $100 an acre, and will help pay for seeds, herbicide, technical help and the use of the institute's no-till drill, according to information from the institute.

Landowners need fields of at least 10 acres in Shenandoah, Warren, Frederick or Page counties, and must have access to other needed farm equipment. The institute prefers the land be within 3 miles of a George Washington National Forest boundary line.

Additionally, the grass must be maintained for five years.

Caity Homan, an ecology intern at the institute, said researchers will study birds and pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and identify plants.

"It's to promote biodiversity, improve landscapes," she said.

According to Homan, native warm-season grasses include both little and big bluestem, Indian grass, broomsedge, switch grass, purpletop and sideoats grama.

Virginia Working Landscapes' website, vaworkinglandscapes.org, explains some of the benefits of growing native warm-season grasses.

Because the grasses leave more bare ground under and between each plant than cool-season grasses, there is more space for wildflowers, legumes and insects that can be eaten by wildlife, the site states. They also are a good source of food for cattle, according to the website.

To get an application, which is due by Jan. 28, email SCBIecology@si.edu.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com

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