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JULY 15, 2010 • ISSUE 88

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Photo1

Project Manager Kathy Brooks preparing a prairie seed mix

Photo2

Students help clean up former pod demolition sites for prairie planting

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The first restored prairie by the Ladies’ Dome is now 6 years old

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Tom Brooks, Project Executive Director, rototilling the prairie site

MUM Reconstructs Native Prairie

Maharishi University of Management, in cooperation with the Iowa Living Roadway Trust Fund (LRTF), is reconstructing 14 acres of native prairie in the center of campus. MUM received a grant from the LRTF in 2009 and has applied in 2010 again for additional funding to complete the project.

A native prairie contains attractive wildflowers (forbs) and grasses and offers a more sustainable approach to campus landscaping because it requires minimal maintenance and provides wildlife habitat. This traditional prairie landscaping will also complement the new Sustainable Living Center across Highway 1.

“We wish to inspire and educate the general public, visitors, our university students, younger students at our K-12 school and other schools in the Greater Prairie Area Education Agency, and create a resource that will encourage eco-tourism and eco-volunteerism,” said Kathy Brooks, Project Manager.

Complying with the University’s 30-year commitment to sustainable landscaping ethics, these prairie sites have been seeded with local ecotype seeds and transplants grown in the certified organic campus greenhouses. Two thirds of the sites were “frost seeded” in February on frozen ground to allow the seeds to naturally “stratify” in cold and wet conditions to break germination. Prairie plants are perennials and take 2 to 5 years to mature from seed.

Establishing prairies throughout the Midwest is often accomplished with the use of chemical herbicides. MUM, with LRTF’s support, is testing the feasibility of alternative, sustainable methods. Organic weed management field trials began this June, including solarization — covering the weedy areas with plastic sheeting for a period of three months — and the application of Dr. Elaine Ingham’s aerobic compost tea technology to re-balance soil biology.

“Our goal is to create an inviting and publicly accessible outdoor classroom environment with educational displays,” Ms. Brooks said. In addition to the wide diversity of native plants, the site will include mowed paths, plant identification signs, educational kiosks, trail markers, and a visitors parking area. University administrators, students, and community members all volunteer to assist in the hands-on prairie project.

Watch a short video about the prairie project.

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