With crop prices at an all time high, South Dakota has seen a drastic reduction in the amount of land set aside for wildlife. This trend has affected the population of native plants and animals, hurting especially pheasant numbers. This summer, the Wildlife Division of South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks aims to increase wildlife population with a new habitat project.
The idea here is to plant a large pollinator plot full of flowering plants to attract insects and other wildlife to the land. Insects are crucial to the survival of pheasant chicks since insects are a large part of a pheasant chicks’ diet. No flowers = No insects = No pheasants. The Outdoor Campus has dedicated one acre of land to this pollinator plot project which was started early this past May.
Regional habitat Manager Steve VanderBeek, explains what it is like to work on this project. “It’s pretty exciting stuff to do because there is interest in bumblebees and butterflies and stuff. This (project) is probably the most receptive of an audience we have ever seen for habitat related things!”
Expected image of what the plot will look like this summer
The project consists of two major planting parts. For the first year of the project, the unoccupied land is introduced to a annual cover crop. This seed mixture consists of mainly grasses and clover type plants. After one year of growth, the habitat will be ready to take on a more diverse seed mixture. A perennial mix will then be introduced to the land and will produce insect-attracting flowers. The perennial mixture will take about two years to mature and develop.
Wild Bergamot Blanket Flower Black Eyed Susan
Besides a gorgeous display of native and non native plants, the new pollinator plot will provide food and shelter for many different species of wildlife. Insects attracted by flowers will serve as food for pheasant chicks. Sunflowers and sorghums will stand up to provide cover during winter for grassland songbirds.
The goal for this project is to enhance, populate and diversify a unique habitat for different types of wildlife. A pollinator plot is “so doable; you can do a very small piece of land and it is very easy to accomplish.”