Native Plant & Seed Sources: Challenges and Solutions in Plant Propagation and Seed Collection

SERCAL 2017 Technical Session, Davis

Chairs: Thor Anderson and Kevin Ghalambor, Burleson Consulting

Lead presenters in alpha order

Breeding Systems and Hybridization Potential of Native Grassland Species
Sylvia Delfino
sdelfino@hedgerowfarms.com
Maintaining the genetic identity of a given population in restoration is a key issue restoration practitioners face. Ecological restoration in California is still a young field both in terms of theory and practical application. The definition of ecological restoration is “the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed” as defined by the Society for Ecological Restoration. Implementation methods and strategies are still being tested and ecologists strive to rehabilitate California’s ecosystems using materials that do not adversely alter the genetic structure of a site’s existing or historical plant populations. Materials for projects in California often come from native seed producers within the state. Producers strive to provide materials that are genetically true to a species and to the geographic distribution in which it was collected (i.e., ecotype). Producers take precautions to reduce the chances of hybridization between species and cross-pollination between ecotypes, while also maximizing genetic diversity of seeds during the harvest and cleaning processes (e.g., making sure to harvest both early- and late-setting seeds for a particular species). This review focused on two questions: First, what are the breeding systems of the species grown in large-scale production? Second, with which other species and/or genera does the species hybridize?

Looking Back at Butte Fire Seeding: Stepping ahead with the National Seed Strategy
David Gilpin*1, Vanessa Stephens2, Chris Swann3, Bill Agnew4, and David Lightle5
1General Manager, Pacific Coast Seed; 2Resources Analysts; 3Watershed Ranger Supervisor; 4Agnew Environmental Consulting; 5Erosion Model Consultant
In the aftermath of the 70,000 acre Butte Fire (2015) East Bay MUD elected to provide native seeding and erosion control treatments to 20 acres on the crest of the Mokelumne River Watershed that drains to Pardee Reservoir. Researchers utilized this natural laboratory to establish and measure treated plots for cover % for native seed, other vegetation, bare ground, litter, and more. Seeding results are presented from select treatments measured over two seasons. Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE2) calculations were formulated to measure soil erosion reduction from seeded areas compared to areas with no treatments. Additionally, RUSLE2 estimates future benefits from such treatments and projects the results of increased cover over time. Finally, this and other research and outreach should be advantageous to California by realizing the value of expanding appropriate native restoration seed sources across a large array of agencies, practitioners and the public-at-large through the National Seed Strategy.

Searching for Climax
Ed Kleiner
Comstock Seed LLC, 917 Hwy 88, Gardnerville, NV 89460, 775.720.3681, ed@comstockseed.com
The recently published National Native Seed Strategy is promoting the use of locally sourced seed through the expansion of farm cultivation and native acquisitions.  This strategy is influencing specifications in the private sector which is now requiring local seed for large rural projects such as utility corridors, highways, and mines, as well as projects at the urban interface. This presentation will review several historic projects in the western U.S. that included local seed acquisitions and present a photographic timeline of restoration progress. Common themes in the design and implementation of these projects, emphasizing the use of locally sourced seed, provide insight for a functional path for future projects and support the National Native Seed Strategy.

Greenheart Farms: Utilizing agricultural practices to make history in restoration
Jordan Marcellus*1 and Andrea Finnegan2
1Greenheart Farms, Inc., 902 Zenon Way, Arroyo Grande 93420, JMarcellus@greenheartfarms.com; 2US Bureau of Reclamation, Afinnegan@usbr.gov
For several years, Greenheart Farms has been propagating and transplanting native restoration species for the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program along the border of California and Arizona. As one of the largest restoration project in US history (50 years, 8,100 acres), novel solutions to plant propagation and transplanting were critical for long-term success and viability. Greenheart Farms’ decades of experience in vegetable-transplant production has helped make this program not only extremely successful but also cost-effective by utilizing agricultural principles and automation in many aspects of propagation and transplanting. To date, over 10 million native trees, shrubs, and grass plugs have been planted across over 4,600 acres, creating vital habitat for at least 18 LCR MSCP cover species of fauna, most of which are state or federally listed as sensitive, threatened, or endangered.

Adaptive Methods of Seed Collection for Special-status Plant Restoration
Eric Piehel* and Cecilia Meyer Lovell
AECOM, 401 West A Street, Suite 1200, San Diego 92101, eric.piehel@aecom.com
Restoring special-status plants requires constant adaptive management and innovation due to their rarity and often specific habitat requirements. Seed collection is the first crucial step in the seemingly species specific process of rare plant restoration. It is understood that each rare plant has its own set of habitat and soil preferences; phenology; and reproductive, dispersal, and germination strategies. Observing and knowing each of these factors and the relation of them for your specific target species is the key to developing successful special-status plant seed collections. There is no simple formula for successful special-status plant seed collection, but by deconstructing and analyzing species-specific methods and processes, common patterns and factors emerge. Lessons learned, including successes and failures of seed collection from several special-status plant species of San Diego County will be shared with the idea that these lessons can be applied to other regions with their own unique special-status plants.

Special-Status Plant Propagation: Mojave and Colorado Desert species
Linda Robb*1, Lindsey Cavallaro*1, Scott McMillan1, Bruce Hanson1, Cecilia Meyer Lovell1, Setal Prabhu2, and Sean Bergquist2
1AECOM, 401 West A Street, Suite 1200, San Diego 92101, 714.478.0755, Linda.Robb@aecom.com; 2Southern California Edison, 6090 N. Irwindale Avenue, Irwindale 91702
Propagation of special-status plants poses many challenges, especially for species that have specific microhabitat requirements and have not been successfully propagated in a nursery setting. Understanding how phenology and microhabitat conditions factor into a plant’s rarity is key to successfully propagating rare plant species. Southern California Edison (SCE) worked with AECOM to propagate a number of sensitive desert plants species in an effort to reestablish plants that could not be avoided during construction of SCE transmission line projects. White-margined beardtongue (Penstemon albomarginatus), rosy two-toned beardtongue (Penstemon bicolor ssp. roseus), and nine-awned pappus grass (Enneapogon desvauxii) are species from the Mojave Desert near Las Vegas, Nevada, that are currently being propagated by AECOM for SCE mitigation. Rosy two-toned beardtongue and nine-awned pappus grass have been successfully propagated and outplanted, as well as used for seed bulking and seed dispersal in appropriate habitat. White-margined beardtongue has unique habitat requirements, and several attempts have been made to propagate this species utilizing native soil and germination throughout different times of the year, with mixed results. Coachella Valley milk-vetch, a Colorado Desert species, was propagated by the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden for SCE utilizing knowledge of key habitat requirements and collaborative input from restoration experts at SCE and AECOM. Coachella Valley milk-vetch was ultimately most successful when propagated with native soil and from seed dispersed back into its native habitat. We will share the methods and results of the special-status plant species propagation efforts and identify valuable lessons learned for each species.