Grassland Management

Many species of wildlife use grasslands for food, cover, and nesting. The greater prairie chicken, upland sandpiper, and meadowlark are but a few of the many species that are almost totally dependent on open grasslands for their habitat requirements. Rabbits, bobwhite quail, turkeys, and pheasants also use grasslands for nesting and roosting cover, but they usually do not stray very far from woody or shrubby cover. In addition, well-managed grasslands benefit all living species, including humans, by controlling soil erosion and storing carbon.

In This Section

Grasslands in General

Grasslands need management to stay productive. Idled grasslands tend to build up excess litter, which benefits rodents, but restricts use by other wildlife such as bobwhite quail and rabbits.

Grazing

This practice can be done on a continuous or rotational basis. "Continuous" means keeping livestock on a single field over an extended period of time, if not permanently.

Haying

Timing is one of the most important factors in haying. Cutting too early will reduce production, and cutting too late will decrease quality and prevent grasses from building up root reserves before winter dormancy.

Fertilizing

Both haying and grazing remove nutrients from the soil. You can apply fertilizer and agricultural limestone to a field, but it's best to do these practices only after conducting a soil test. This will tell you what nutrients, if any, are low in your soil.

Overseeding with Legumes

Legumes, such as clovers and lespedezas, are nitrogen-fixing plants, which means they can remove nitrogen from the air and add it to the soil, thus making nitrogen available for other plants to use.

Cool-Season Grasslands

Cool-season grasses, such as timothy, orchard grass, Kentucky bluegrass, redtop, smooth brome grass, and tall fescue, start growing early in the spring when soil temperatures reach 40 F.

Native Warm-Season Grasslands

Established warm-season grasslands consist of a few species of native grasses and forbs, usually planted by the landowner or a contractor. This is in contrast to a native prairie, which is composed of many grasses, sedges, rushes, and forbs.

Remnant Prairies and Grasslands

Missouri’s native prairies once covered nearly one-third of the state. A diverse mixture of grasses, sedges, rushes, and forbs dominated these prairies.

Grassland Management Tips

Tips on Grassland managements

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