Longleaf Conference

Authored by Jacob Barrett

In early November, I was pleased to attend the 11th Biennial Longleaf Conference in the beautiful city of Savannah, GA. I was able to listen to some great talks pertaining to restoration as well as network with people that have similar interests and goals as we do at Orianne. As the conference was approaching, we were just beginning to get started collecting Lopsided Indiangrass and Wiregrass seed. As tough as it was to break away from seed collection, I was proud that I was able to because I met so many great people.

Since my mind was focused on seed collection back in southern Telfair County, I was immediately drawn to the groundcover restoration sessions held in the Franklin meeting room. It was standing room only throughout the duration of the conference. As some may know, there are not many groups that specialize in groundcover restoration like us at The Orianne Society, so it was very encouraging to see so many people hungry for knowledge on this “buffet” of information that the Longleaf Alliance had provided for us that week. I listened to talks from quail habitat managers, private land consultants, authors and artists, just to mention a few.

As a relatively new employee of The Orianne Society, I was particularly excited to learn more about how different organizations go about restoring native groundcover. We have all been learning about food webs since the early stages of grade school, right? Without our plant communities, we would not have the floral detritus which invertebrates feed upon. Small mammals and vertebrates feed on those inverts, and then larger mammals and vertebrates feed on those, etc. I know, it seems pretty basic. But these native plants play a huge role in the food web as well as the physical structure (i.e. they help carry fire throughout the landscape, thus altering the overstory and understory composition) of the sandhill habitats that our beloved Eastern Indigo Snakes utilize during this time of year. As my employment continues, I am overcome with increasing appreciation of these priceless plant communities.

Back to the subject of restoring groundcover. I was eager to learn more about an alternate method of actually planting native seeds. Here at Orianne, we have used the flail-vac system to harvest Wiregrass-dominated seed mixes and hand-stripping methods with Indiangrass species. These methods of collection are fairly common among collection crews. Where the difference lies is in the act of putting the seed into the ground. We are going to use a Grasslander to plant our seed. This native seed drill will allow us to plant a certain number of seeds per square foot, depending on our germination rate and purity of the seed mix. This will allow us to stretch our 200 pounds of seed so that we are able to maximize our harvested crop for this year.

As I learned at the conference, some organizations use blowers to disperse seed over the landscape and let natural changes in the weather (i.e. changes in barometric pressure, rain, wind, etc.) “drill” the seed into the ground versus the packing wheels of a Grasslander seed drill. A pro for this method is that seed can be placed anywhere regardless of obstacles in the way (i.e. trees, logs, etc). A con for this method is that you cannot be sure how much viable seed is being dispersed within a small area. Another concern with this method is that you cannot be sure that viable seed is making contact with the ground and then successfully germinating. If you have an abundance of seed for that particular year, this could be a viable method. Since we are limited with our seed and have a large area to plant this year, the Grasslander method will benefit us best.

This conference was particularly awesome because not only is it attended by professionals in the natural resources field, but it’s also attended by private landowners. I was proud that I was able to witness one of our private landowners receive the Joseph A. Johnson Landowner of the Year Award. This trip was hands down one of the best conferences that I have had the privilege of attending, and I am confident that the connections I made and information gained will help me make a positive impact on our mission here at Orianne.

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