• Question: What kind of soil is best to grow prarie plant in (i suck at spelling)? We were given 1 acre of land to grow prarie plants in. We are very curious?

    Asked by emmajobean to Alex, Ana, Clay, Keegan, Mark on 29 Apr 2016.
    • Photo: Mark Ritchie

      Mark Ritchie answered on 29 Apr 2016:

      Prairies can grow on almost any type of soil, from nearly white beach sand (I worked on such at a research station in Minnesota) to deep loamy silty soils found in river bottoms. However, the prairie plant species that will do well differ drastically across these different types of soils. So if you already have a list on plant species you are going to use, then there’s probably a soil on which they will grow best.

      Something to remember is that prairie plants make their own soil. Many of them are deep-rooted to find water deep in the soil during hot summer dry periods. When these roots die they become organic matter which holds water and provides a home and food for bacteria. Over hundreds of years, this decomposition of roots creates a deep, dark-colored soil perfect for agriculture. Even on sandy soils, prairie creates a gray organic soil.

    • Photo: Clay Robinson

      Clay Robinson answered on 3 May 2016:

      Soils and plants depend upon one another.
      A prairie is dominated by various grass species with some other plants growing with the grass, so prairies are often called grasslands.
      Prairies are commonly found in subhumid and semiarid regions, where the precipitation is between 200 and 1000 cm. When the precipitation is more than 1000 cm, typically you find forests.
      The grass is short when there is little rain, and we call those short-grass prairies. The types of grasses change to kinds that grow taller as the precipitation increases, until tall-grass prairies are reached. The transition area is called a mixed-grass prairie.
      These prairies grow on all kinds of soils, from those dominated by sands (coarser particles) to those dominated by clays (the smallest soil particles). Prairies grow in soils that form from materials deposited by wind, lakes, oceans, rivers, gravity, and even glaciers.
      So there is not really a “best” soil for growing prairies.
      And as the grasses grow in the soil, they change the soil by adding organic matter as the roots decompose. The soil gets darker, and the individual particles begin sticking together to form clumps or clods soil scientists call aggregates.
      Some of the richest soils on the planet formed under tall-grass prairies in the Midwestern United States in the region we call the Corn Belt. It is hard to find any of the undisturbed, native prairies left there because so much was plowed up to grow crops.