Mayberry Native Plant Propagation Center (Mayberry) is a project of Rim to Rim Restoration with the purpose of testing and propagating upper Colorado Plateau sourced native plant seeds and containerized stock for regional restoration efforts on public and private lands. The Propagation Center is located 16 miles NE of Moab on a 30 acre parcel of land along the Colorado River.
Native Plant Materials Centers are operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service area located throughout the United States to test, grow and distribute plant materials that are regionally appropriate. The Upper Colorado Plateau lies within the boundaries of three NRCS plant material centers: Aberdeen, Meeker, and Los Lunas. Since the Upper Colorado Plateau lies on the outer edges of the areas served by all of these Centers, plant materials sourced from the Colorado Plateau are not the primary responsibility of any of these centers. Mayberry seeks to fill a critical gap in the growing need for regionally sourced plant materials for plant regeneration efforts on public and private land in the Upper Colorado Plateau.
HISTORY OF THE PLACE
Dr. Paul Mayberry purchased this property and planted a peach orchard. The Nature Conservancy continued to grow fruit here during their ownership of the property. At one time there were 750 peach trees in this orchard, which had declined over time when Rim to Rim took over management of the property and by 2009, only eight trees remained alive. In 2010, Rim to Rim removed the dead trees and gave away the wood in order to treat the knapweed that had infested close to 14 acres of the property. Four trees remain from the last fruit tree planting and, as these decline, a small number of fruit trees will be replanted to continue to honor the history of Mayberry as well as provide shade for people working at the Propagation Center in the summer months.
EVOLUTION & INFRASTRUCTURE
Rim to Rim acquired the property from the Nature Conservancy in 2009 with the assistance of funding provided anonymously (I need to ask if we can put the name here). The land is protected by a conservation easement restricting the property to agricultural use only. In addition, only 5000 sf total of structures may be built inside a fairly tight building envelope.
The barn was built in 2010 for tool storage and offers a clean space for equipment and supplies to be securely stored out of the weather as well as serve various needs allowing for additional uses and cold storage. Solar panels were installed in 2014 with the help of a National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality incentives Program (EQIP) contract and a Rocky Mountain Power Solar Incentive Award. These panels offset the power needed to run the pumps that irrigate the seed production shelter belts, the bean field, future containerized production, and all other watering needs. Power costs are not a limiting factor in operating the Plant Propagation Center!
Irrigation has been a very prominent challenge for this property. To overcome the lack of a good intake valve location on the river, and the introduction of knapweed to the entire property through past irrigation practice, Rim to Rim opted to drill wells to access clean River water. This system has worked well since 2013 providing consistent quality and quantity of water for irrigation purposes. The very low water expected in 2018 is sure to provide some challenges to the system.
When Rim to Rim acquired Mayberry, Russian knapweed dominated fourteen acres of the property. Russian knapweed is an invasive, low growing perennial weed with roots that extend over 20 feet; the plant reproduces by seed and root buds with rhizomes. Knapweed control efforts have been a major part of the evolution of Mayberry. Ten years of intensive efforts has led to the property being nearly knapweed-free.
PROJECTS AND PROGRAMS
Bee Inspired Gardens & Milkweed Production and Monitoring
In 2017 Mayberry planted a pollinator plant testing area that is included in the Moab Bee Inspired Gardens program. The purpose of the garden is to test how certain pollinator species grow in Mayberry’s fine soils prior to investing in seed production in a larger field. A small area has also been set aside to grow locally collected milkweeds and monitor what insects use these plants in addition to Monarchs.
Seed Producing Wind Breaks and Shelterbelts
To produce regionally sourced tree and shrub seeds for revegetation project use, windbreaks were installed in 2013 and 2014 along the highway and dividing the downstream field into approximate 1 acre subareas. Seed for the trees and shrubs in these shelterbelts was collected in the Escalante and Dolores watersheds, as well as from locations near Moab. Tree and shrub seed (and when appropriate cuttings) for Cottonwood, Birch, Box Elder, Netleaf Hackberry, New Mexico Privet, Three Leaf Sumac, Silver Buffalo Berry, Golden Currant, Woods Rose, Desert Holly, Cliff Fendlerbush and Gambels Oak will be able to be harvested soon.
In addition to the Bee Inspired Garden, an exclosure fence was built to provide a test and grow out area protected from deer and rabbits. Currently a small direct sowing trial is located inside the area, but it is also available for other testing methods. Due to Mayberry’s past as a peach tree orchard, there are 4 remaining trees on the property that still bear fruit. To honor the history of Mayberry, more fruit trees will be planted in the coming years. The fence was also built with the idea to expand it to the east in the future should needs arise.
Rim to RIm has been working closely with the USGS, The Nature Conservancy and others to grow and harvest Biocrust on one area of Mayberry. Biocrust (also referred to as cryptogamic soil) is a vital component of the ecosystem in the Colorado Plateau and other desert locations. It is thought to be vital for soil health and plant growth in many areas, acting like a living mulch in locations with soil and regular rain. This project, organized by the Nature Conservancy and the USGS collaborating with Northern Arizona University, the Mayberry Native Plant Propagation Center and the Canyonlands Research Center at Dugout Ranch, is the first effort to grow biocrust on an agronomic scale in the Western US. Funding for this work is provided through a grant to The Nature Conservancy from the Wildlife Conservation Society through its Climate Adaptation Fund; support to establish the Climate Adaptation Fund was provided by a grant to the Wildlife Conservation Society from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
The past 8 years of work have made slow but sure progress to a functioning plant propagation center with opportunities for community involvement and expansion. Seed trials of regionally collected annual wildflowers and other plants as well as grow out regionally sourced seeds from the NPS and other organizations are ongoing. The space and logistical support as part of a larger project proposal by US Geological Survey and The Nature Conservancy to grow soil crusts as a trial for transplanting will continue through 2019 at least. The pollinator program will grow from the Bee Inspired Garden and Milkweed Grow out area to also include areas to grow annual buckwheat, bee plant, and other hard to find annual native plants. Lastly, we plan on building two small passive solar greenhouses, as well as provide power to the barn, for propagation of cuttings and seed. We will continue to update the community with more plans as they arise!