Hundreds of wildflower species bring immense beauty to the United States throughout the year from Maine’s red trilliums and Texas bluebonnets to Alaska’s fireweed and Nevada’s desert sand verbena.
Whether growing in their native habitats or being actively cultivated in public and private spaces, wildflowers are important elements in healthy ecosystems, providing food and shelter to pollinators.
Almost as diverse as wildflowers themselves are wildflower-related research and Extension efforts Several current research projects are looking at how wildflowers and their associated pollinators can impact and improve traditional production agriculture systems.
NIFA funding of almost $500,000 is supporting a five-year project investigating whether small plots of perennial wildflowers planted adjacent to traditional crops can improve soil health and potentially increase agricultural sustainability. The South Dakota State University research team is also examining if harvesting those wildflower plots for seeds can provide producers with a new income source.
Researchers with the Ohio State University are exploring if wildflowers can boost soil health and crop productivity. The four-year study will examine whether replacing low-productivity field areas with wildflower cover crops will benefit soil health, honeybees and beneficial insects. Discover more about this work to help Midwest soybean producers.
At Virginia Tech, scientists are evaluating best management practices for establishing grasslands of native warm-season grasses and wildflowers that create a biodiverse forage system suitable for cattle and pollinators. Additionally, they are examining whether native grass-wildflower grasslands can improve cattle productivity. More details about this project can be found here.
Projects like these help advance USDA’s goals to address climate change by improving producers’ resilience and profitability.
Follow NIFA on USDA’s Facebook page, Twitter and LinkedIn to learn more about how NIFA supports Land-grant Universities to develop new strategies that enhance agricultural sustainability and mitigate climate change.