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Shortgrass Prairie

Shortgrass Prairie

Photo by Douglas Gayeton

Shortgrass Prairie

Location: Soapstone Prairie,
Featuring: David Augustine, Landscape Ecologist

What lesson can drylands farmers in the high plans learn from the perennial grasses that have grown here for millennia? It starts with diversity.

While the blue grama is the dominant and most drought-adapted grass in the shortgrass prairie, its understory is mixed with cool season grasses that adapt to a wide range of climatic conditions. Meanwhile, up to 90% of the biomass here is belowground, like an iceberg, allowing it to sequester huge amounts of carbon. By understanding how nature creates resilience, dryland farmers can use same diversity primciple to grow more food and stay in business whilefarming in the most variable climate in the country.

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