ST. MARTINVILLE — An LSU AgCenter wildflower project has turned an empty field at a state park into a colorful pollinator habitat.
LSU AgCenter agent Stuart Gauthier used a $5,000 “Feed a Bee” grant from Bayer CropScience to buy wildflower seed that was used to plant approximately 3 acres at the Longfellow-Evangeline State Park.
Gauthier said Rogers Leonard, LSU AgCenter associate vice president, urged Sara Shields, Louisiana Master Gardener Program coordinator, to apply for the grant.
“The whole idea is to plant for more habitat for honeybees,” Gauthier said.
He also distributed the seed to Louisiana cattle producers to plant in their pastures and estimates they created roughly 200 acres of additional pollinator habitat.
Money still exists from the grant to plant additional acreage.
Christi Disher, manager of Longfellow-Evangeline, said the project has turned the field into a bright color-filled entrance that greets visitors to the park.
“We’ve always wanted to do something like this, and having Stuart do it has been fantastic,” Disher said.
Gauthier said he prepared the seedbed by killing the grass with glyphosate and borrowed a seed drill from the St. Martin Parish office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service to plant the seed.
“Using a drill for wildflowers was a learning experience,” he said.
The wildflowers include plains coreopsis, dwarf red plains coreopsis and clasping coneflower along with a clover pollinator mix and a Southeastern wildflower mix.
Gauthier suspects some of the seed didn’t germinate because it was placed too deeply, so next time he probably will broadcast the seed onto the soil.
The wet winter probably affected the viability of some of the seed, he said.
“The wildflowers, if managed properly, should reseed annually,” Gauthier said.
Most of the wildflowers at the park are coreopsis, or tickseed. Gauthier said Mark Simon at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette farm in Cade donated the plains coreopsis and the clasping coneflower from seed harvested in Cade.
No fertilizers were used because wildflowers typically grow in low-fertility environments. If fertilizer were used, he said, it would also encourage the growth of grasses that would compete for nutrients.
Gauthier said it’s best to stop mowing a field of wildflowers after March because that’s when the growing season will be starting.