The Farm Bill and Missouri Landowners
soil runoff into streams.
Grice is passionate about bobwhite quail and likes to work bird dogs. The 2002 season, he said, was the first hunting season since he was 12 years old in which he didn't shoot a quail on his farm. He said his property held quail, but the coveys were so small he didn't want to reduce their numbers.
Grice has been actively managing his CRP grasslands for bobwhite quail, and he is starting to see a difference. The cropland portions of the tracts were originally seeded with a mixture of smooth brome grass and annual lespedeza, but Grice now recognizes the benefits of native warm-season grasses, like little bluestem and switchgrass, for quail and grassland birds.
The woody draws and waterways, which are not eligible for CRP, originally contained head-high shrubs and saplings, including gray dogwood, American plum and aromatic sumac. These provided excellent loafing areas for quail and much needed bare ground under the dense canopy of the shrubs.
Over the years, Grice noticed those shrubby draws become dominated by full-size trees. These trees gradually shaded out the understory plants that might have provided habitat for rabbits and quail. In addition, the grasslands under the CRP contract became dense and thick with litter from several years without management.
Without intensive management, CRP fields originally seeded to brome grass revert to fescue and invasive trees like honey locust. However, thanks to prescribed burning and the help of a small tractor and disk, Grice is beginning to see his CRP fields hold more quail.
One convenient and inexpensive technique that Grice likes is to disk strips throughout the grass fields. The strips temporarily set back the grass and allow a combination of forbs and ragweed and other beneficial weeds to sprout. The strips also create much needed bare ground within the field. Grice also uses the strips as fire breaks for his prescribed burn program. He burns each field every third year.
It's important to note that landowners with CRP contracts must get approval from the local USDA office before any manipulation, such as burning or disking, of their CRP acres.
Grice enrolled in the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) to control some of the invasive woody species and return the woody draws to more beneficial quail habitat. He's removing honey locust trees, and he's treating the stumps to prevent re-sprouting. The WHIP contract is a five year