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CP2 Permanent Native Grasses and Wildflowers


September 16, 2022

42 percent of reduced overland water flow.

95 percent of reduced sediment transport.

Native natural enemies are estimated to save farmers in the United States about $4.5 billion annually on pest control.

Economic advantages

  • Placing CP2 practices in low production areas of the farm.
  • Cattle grazed* on big bluestem had a total beef yield of 653 pounds per acre.
  • Compared to cattle grazed on non - native species, such as fescue, had a total beef yield of 513 pounds per acre.

*Cattle grazing must be authorized through the Conservation Plan.

Just the basics

Native grasses and wildflowers were present in Michigan when Europeans arrived, and enhance environmental benefits by providing soil erosion protection and habitat for a variety of wildlife. Some of the more common Native grasses that grow well in Michigan include warm season grasses such as big bluestem, Indian grass, and switchgrass. Native cool season grasses include Canada wild rye and Virginia wild rye. Common wildflowers include black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower and coreopsis.

CREP policy guidelines

  • Native grasses and wildflowers will be established according to the Conservation Cover (327) standard in the local Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG).
  • Focus planting areas of high phosphorus loss areas of the farm. 100 % will be planted in native grasses and wildflowers.
  • Seed Quality conforms to MI Act 623 and 329 and Regulation 715.
  • See Michigan Common Seeding Tables in Section VI under Ecological Science Tools in the local Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG).
  • Haying and grazing in seeded areas is not permitted unless authorized in the Conservation Plan.

What is the life cycle of native grasses and wildflowers?

Site preparation

  • Sample the soil at least six months prior to planting.
  • Soil testing for commercial fertilizer use should be done by an accredited laboratory with the North American Proficiency testing program when and MSU laboratory is not used.
  • Existing vegetation can be removed using mechanical and/or chemical methods prior to planting.
  • If the field is currently in cropland, weed control should occur prior to planting with tillage or herbicide.
  • If the site is currently in sod, weed control with a broad-spectrum herbicide in the fall and again in the spring prior to green up and planting.
  • Contact MSU Extension for herbicide recommendations.
  • Lime and fertilizer can be applied prior to site planting. This is not often needed. The amount of lime should be determined by a buffer pH test.

Planting guide

  • Fall and Spring are the best time to plant, but can be planted at any time of year. Do not plant when there is greater than 4 inches of snow cover.
  • Use a no-till grass drill for planting. If no drill is available broadcast and aerial seeding is acceptable.
  • A carrier, such as potash, can be used when aerial seeding for even distribution.
  • Seed no deeper than 1/8th inch.
  • After seeding, the site must be rolled or cultipacked to ensure proper seed to soil contact. This is only needed when broadcast seeding.
  • Maintain grasses in the first two years by mowing and spot herbicide is crucial for sucess. Bi-annual burning can be used in the following years.
  • Native grasses should not be mowed lower than 12 inches.
  • If needed, seed a temporary cover for erosion control.

Design considerations

Species shall be adapted to soil, ecological sites, and climate conditions that are suitable for the planned purpose and site conditions.

Planting dates

  • Upper Peninsula - 10/8 to freeze or thaw to 7/15
  • Northern lower Michigan (N. of US10) - 10/15 to freeze or thaw to 6/30
  • South lower Michigan (S. of US 10) - 10/20 to freeze or thaw to 6/30

*Do not plant when there is greater than 4 inches of snow cover

Seeding rates

Consider the benefits of warm verses cool season grasses, and forbs to different species of wildlife when determining which seed mixtures to use.

See Michigan Common Seeding Tables in Section VI under Ecological Science Tools in the local Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG).

Land obligation

  • Develop a Conservation Plan with USDA approved conservationist
  • Complete all necessary permits before installation
  • Perform periodic management activities according to the Conservation Plan
  • Complete seeding of the the practice within 12 months of the effective date of the contract
  • Will maintain practice without additional cost-share payments
  • Will not hay or graze unless authorized through the Conservation Plan

Contract tasks

  • Complete a soil test to determine appropriate site preparation and desired species.
  • Complete the Implementation Requirements form in the FOTG with client to outline installation requirements and obtain necessary permits.
  • Complete 327 & CREP - CP2 job sheet and cost estimate.
  • Order needed equipment such as a disk, seed drill, roller, or cultipacker.
  • Determine operation and management plan with client.
  • Layout and stake according to plans and specifications with the client before installation.


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