Less than one percent of Minnesota’s native prairie remains. Efforts to conserve and restore prairie generally require seed and other plant materials. Concerns over local adaptation and genetic contamination have increased the emphasis on using plant materials that trace their ancestry to a plant population near the restoration site. Seed may not be available in the quantities or diversity, or representing geographic areas needed for restoration and conservation projects. In this project, we are assessing the obstacles facing the production and use of locally-sourced native seeds by means of focus groups involving participants from government, nonprofit, and private organizations that produce or use seeds of native prairie plants in Minnesota.
The initial focus group with large-scale users of native seeds revealed that unpredictability in funding leads to unpredictable needs for plant materials. This unpredictability exacerbates risk for producers. Large-scale users recognize the importance of having multiple avenues of seed production, including hand harvesters, bulk harvesters, and agronomic-style producers. The participants note a shortage of small contractors in greater Minnesota. Bureaucratic barriers include differing definitions of ‘local’ depending on funding source, as well as rules restricting use of seed gathered from public lands as the foundation for commercial production. Cost, available quantities, available species, available source areas, and bureaucratic hurdles remain limiting factors to using locally-sourced native seed to restore Minnesota prairie.