Advances in understanding plant genetics, biochemistry and physiology have provided new tools for adaptation to land reclamation. Many of the technologies developed by Prairie Plant Systems Inc. have been applied to this need within the environment. While numerous engineering environmental companies have concentrated on traditional agricultural solutions for reclamation projects, we take a biotechnological approach that complements the natural ecological process. Conceptually, the company believes that nature provides the best sustainable solutions. We only need to enhance and assist this natural ecological evolution of revegetation to reclaim the land to its original state. This approach is facilitated by incorporating the species native to the disturbed region into the reclamation process using new biotechnologies for the reintroduction process.
Towards this end, PPS’s approach to any reclamation project involves three basic research steps:
- Identification of species relevant to the area; potentially including both native and domestic species,
- Development of propagation protocols to create a wide array of plant species for reclamation,
- Research to determine the best technology and appropriate order for re-introduction of the appropriate native species to the area.
Prairie Plant Systems has the facilities and the personnel to not only complete the required research, but also to propagate the large number of plants required for any reclamation project. Furthermore, we can also complete the actual work necessary for the introduction of the species into the environment. This work is related to the contract research and propagation division.
There are several advantages to using native plants for reforestation and reclamation. Native plants help maintain the biodiversity of an area, keeping wildlife habitat intact. They also offer environmental and economic advantages, particularly for difficult growth regimes. Native species are a cost effective sustainable cover, especially for dry lands as these plant species have evolved in the local area thereby dramatically reducing the need for irrigating, pesticides, excessive fertilizer and herbicides.
This approach has worked well in a number of harsh environments involving mine reclamation in Northern Saskatchewan. At one particular mine site, PPS identified seven native grass species and six native woody species which had potential for revegetation. Subsequent to their identification, the company developed new techniques for mass propagation of these species. Trials were then initiated in excess of 60,000 plants for revegetation and the establishment of native grass seed farms. Under the company’s direction, the seed production and reintroduction of species was very successful. Normally, exposed areas at that site did not show any significant plant growth for 15 to 20 years after a disturbance. This new approach can recreate an entire ecosystem within a 3 to 5 year period.
Prairie Plant Systems is currently researching new and innovative products and techniques to solve the reclamation challenges created by tailings ponds, rock stock piles, and road shoulder erosion. Field testing at several mine sites, including an iron mine in Michigan has been successfully ongoing since the spring of 1996. The company still has capacity to pursue similar challenges at other sites.
The company is looking to expand and apply their expertise is the other environmental concerns relating to oil, gas and pipeline development, road construction and power line development. The experience and technologies gained through the mine reclamation efforts would be used as a foundation for these new types of environmental challenges. They would be especially applicable to environmentally sensitive areas such as oil and gas development through the Great Sand Hills, power transmission lines through parks, and road construction on fugacious substrates.
The same biotechnical based approach that PPS successfully utilized in northern Saskatchewan and Michigan can be applied to any land or watershed reclamation project anywhere in the world. Restoration of the global environment will be one of the greatest priorities of the 21st century and we intend to participate in developing some of those solutions.