The Science in Our Food
The Center’s facilities serve as regional, national and international resources
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Prairie grasses found in native landscapes play an important role in providing clues into plants’ ability to respond to environmental stress that can enhance cutting-edge science and technology to improve agricultural productivity.
St. Louis was once the home of tall grass prairies, stands of grasses that often grew taller than grown men. The grasses – especially big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass and switchgrass - are still common today. Tall grass prairies are a unique and complex ecosystem that protects the environment by providing rich soil, assisting healthy crops to thrive and providing thousands of products to our communities.
Prairie grasses are hardy plants that tolerate drought and heat. They also have deep roots that store carbon and copious leaves that can be used for biofuels. The prairie grasses are close relatives of the corn and sorghum; what we learn about one will ultimately apply to improving crops for food and fuel.
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Restoring prairies is a high priority at the Danforth Plant Science Center. In 2016, there was a significant redesign of the Center’s landscape through reconstruction of a native Missouri tall grass prairie, including many varieties of flowering plants and an enhanced ecosystem for 12 colonies of managed honey bees whose 500,000 foragers to help pollinate thousands of acres surrounding the Danforth Center. The six-acre prairie showcases the vital connections between native landscapes, biodiversity and agriculture.