Research: Relative performance of native cultivar and wild collected seed for grassland restoration

The dearth of recent research relating to native plants, native cultivars and plugs is conspicuous. We tend to look for this type of information and share it when we find it. We aim to provide our customers and blog visitors fact-based information to help with decision making and to help provide information that will assist in educating decision makers.

So when we come across research relating to native plants completed and published within the last 5 years we will mention them here.

In 2017 Stover, Naeth and Wilkinson found the following:

  • When it comes to native species of grasses, whether wild seed or cultivated seed propagates better in ecological restoration situations depends on the species.
  • Field establishment of native cool season grasses in foothills fescue grassland was equally successful using wild collected or native cultivar seed.
  • Native cultivars did not exhibit excessive growth that would outcompete their wild counterparts, as often hypothesized, at least not in the initial establishment phase.
  • Emergence is the most limiting phase of seedling establishment and our study demonstrates equally so for cultivar and wild seed

They also addressed three of the working hypotheses in ecological restoration:

  •  the cultivar vigor hypothesis (cultivars perform better since they are bred to have advantageous traits),
  • the local adaptation hypothesis (wild seed performs better since populations are adapted to local conditions)
  • null hypothesis where growth is equal between cultivar and wild seed types.

According to the researchers “this study provides evidence for the null hypothesis. Native cultivar seed may have had similar performance to wild collected seed.”

Of course this research is specific to these conditions, this location and these plant species. But the results can be taken into consideration when making decisions regarding the use of seeds or plugs and of cultivars and native species.

Stover, H. J., Naeth, M. A., & Wilkinson, S. R. (2017). Relative performance of native cultivar and wild collected seed for grassland restoration. Ecological Engineering103, 141-145.

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