The Texas Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration has made available the presentations from the 2014 joint conference (TXSER and SW Chapter). They can be found here. Be aware that some of these PDF files are large and may take awhile to load. There are also many photos from the conference on the TXSER Facebook page. The conference was a great success, with 105+ people forming new professional relationships, strengthening the old ones, and demonstrating through presentations, field trips, and talks that the work restorationists do does matter.
The next TXSER conference will be November 13th-15th, 2015 at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. Check the website next spring for updates (click on “Meetings”).
I attended the Native Seed Sources of West Texas field trip on Friday, the 17th, led by Colin Shackelford of Texas A&M Kingsville. The Texas Native Plant Materials Initiative, a part of Texas Native Seeds (TNS), is a partnership led by the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute (CKWRI) working on developing certified ecotypic native seed sources, and advancing restoration research and implementation. They operate their research and development in South, West, and Central Texas at this time.
Certified native seed is the fundamental aspect of this initiative. Excepting landowners and restoration ecologists in South Texas who can purchase certified seed under the South Texas Natives name, currently there are no certified sources of native seed commercially available for use in other areas of the state. That leaves restorationists and landowners with two options:
1.) a limited number of non-certified commercial seed sources to use (“Alamo” Switchgrass, “Van Horn” Green Sprangletop, “Haskell” Sideoats Grama, etc.) – many that aren’t as widely adapted as previously thought because they are natural selections made from just one population.
2.) purchasing “wild harvested” seed that isn’t grown as commercial varieties. This is the most expensive and cost-prohibitive type of seed available, and is often littered with restricted ecotypes of unproven performance and adaptation.
In Texas, it is not uncommon to get wild harvested seed mixes that are contaminated with the exotic grass KR Bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum), a ruderal species that dominates roadsides, urban lots, ranches, and is found to varying degrees in all prairies. However, you won’t know the wild harvest mix is contaminated until after the seed has been planted, because many wild harvest-based companies in the state are not under the certification program, which subjects seed growers and dealers to noxious weed laws and strict seed testing. Texas Native Seeds is working on developing commercially available, certified native seed sources that will be much more cost effective and ecologically appropriate for landowners and restoration practitioners to use.
One of the main points stressed in the field trip and later presentation is adaptation of a particular seed’s origin. Many seed sources sold in Texas are maladapted ecotypes. For example, “Haskell” Sideoats Grama – the most widely purchased and planted commercial variety of Sideoats in the state of Texas – originated from just one wild population in Haskell County. This release works fine in Western North Texas, and generally within 100 miles or so of that county, but it doesn’t perform very well in other areas of Texas, hence that natural selection is maladapted to those regions. Adapted, high-quality seed sources from multiple populations pave the way on hyper-degraded sites for plant succession which helps create successful plantings. Seeds of unknown or questionable origins (often listed on label as “Origin: Not Stated”, Variety Not Specified or “VNS”) are a gamble for anyone to use, but are used far too often in the state. Certification proves origin!
One example of the trouble with non-certified seed, is a Texas-based seed dealer purchasing a bulk wild harvest from the Northern Great Plains (maladapted ecotypes) and ending up with the nasty Eurasian exotic forb, Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) in the bulk mix. That species has never been in Texas before, and now it is here because of the overall susceptibility of the wild harvest model to exotic seed contaminants. The use of certified seed could have prevented this.
The picture below, taken from the TNS presentation, is worth a thousand words. Where your seed originated from matters! Beware of seed dealers who do not disclose seed origin information and spend your money elsewhere. And don’t buy Variety Not Specified (VNS) seed!