A new natural gas pipeline, the Trans-Pecos Pipeline, is being built across Far West Texas. This pipeline will deliver much-needed natural gas to the community of Presidio, TX (they’ve long used propane and other less clean-burning fuels), and will continue as a transnational pipeline into the United Mexican States.
Many landowners are worried about landscape damages after construction has finished. Although the pipeline cannot be ignored (the world runs on gas and petroleum for the foreseeable future), the best way to mitigate post-construction damages is to NOT plant exotic grasses like Lehmann’s Lovegrass, Weeping Lovegrass or Buffelgrass.
The seed for those invasive species may be cheap, but cheap seed always creates multiple problems decades after re-seeding; not the least of which are damages to wildlife habitat and native plant communities, and further spread and permanent establishment of invasive species. High quality, certified native seed may cost more per pound than exotic species, but those comparisons are moot, and the resulting plantings created by certified native seed will be better and management problems will be significantly less daunting down the road.
The commercial seed market in Texas has undergone major changes over the past decade, and currently offers plenty of native seed options (with more in the future) for landowners in Far West Texas to utilize to protect their land and wildlife habitat during re-seeding activities.
Before purchasing seed, it is helpful to beware of native seed sources that are listed as”Native” or “Native ecotype” or “Local ecotype” (as part of the varietal designation), or even promoted as “wild harvests” that are not source-identified per state agriculture regulations. These sources of seed pose cleanliness concerns (weed seed contamination), as well as unproven plant performance and unproven restoration uses.
Additionally, “Native” and “Local ecotype” are not legally recognized varieties. In fact, many native seed cultivars (i.e. ‘Haskell’ Sideoats Grama, ‘Lovington’ Blue Grama, ‘Kaw’ Big Bluestem, etc.) are bought and repackaged by some seed dealers and commonly sold as part of native “wild harvests”. While such a practice is deceptive, it goes to show how much more reliable commercial cultivars are.
After the photo set below, is a list of what should be planted in Far West Texas. These recommendations are based on seed varieties which have been tested for use by the South Texas Natives and Texas Native Seeds Projects at multiple sites across Texas in common garden studies. These germplasms are currently the best options on the market for landowners to use. There are no substitutes (except as noted).
Be firm about what you want and don’t want to plant — it’s your land!
The following photos illustrate important points with regards to native plant seeds.
Above: A pipeline right-of-way re-seeded with two different seed mixes: An appropriate certified native seed mix (from South Texas Natives) on the left; an inappropriate seed mix on the right. Note the greater plant coverage on the left with the use of named varieties of certified native seed.
The use of inappropriate seed mixes, wastes seed, money and time, and only serves as encouragement for exotic species infiltration and establishment due to weak perennial gaps in the planting.
Above: A comparison of two Blue Grama populations in a common garden study in Far West Texas. “VNS” (variety not specified) on the left, “Hachita” Blue Grama on the right. The difference in plant performance is proof of concept of why it is risky to purchase VNS (or even “wild harvest”) seed for use in re-seeding hyperdegraded sites like pipeline right-of-ways. Commercial cultivars and selected native germplasms have been developed since the post-Dust Bowl years for the native seed industry for this very reason.
Important points to remember when planning for re-seeding and purchasing native seed
- Purchase named varieties only
- Do not buy “Variety Not Specified” (VNS) or “wild harvest” seed types
- Beware of seed listed as “Native” or “Local ecotype” as a varietal designation
- ALWAYS purchase seed on a Pure Live Seed (PLS) basis, not a “bulk pound”
Finally, remember the basic rule of seed mixes: the more species, the better the planting. Don’t settle for a three or 5 species mix!
Below is the seeding recommendations list. If it does not load, a copy can be seen here.