Diamonds in the Rough

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Published on: Dec. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

is important because young quail, pheasants and turkeys feed almost exclusively on insects in summer. They shift to seeds during fall and winter.

CRP Solutions

If you're establishing a new CRP planting, select a wildlife-friendly seeding mixture. A mixture of native warm-season grasses such as little bluestem, big bluestem, sideoats grama and Indian grass will likely be the best choice. However, cool-season grasses like orchard grass and timothy are also wildlife friendly. Any new planting, regardless of whether you select native or cool-season grasses, should contain a mix of forbs and legumes. Avoid planting tall fescue, reed canary grass and caucasian bluestem.

Periodic management of CRP grasslands can provide quality habitat for a variety of wildlife species, many of which are declining both locally and nationally. Practices that can be implemented on CRP grasslands to benefit wildlife include prescribed burning, strip disking, planting shrubs and establishing food plots. Used in combination, these practices can change a CRP field choked with thick grass into a magnet for a variety of wildlife.

Prescribed Burning

Prescribed burning is one of the most efficient and beneficial wildlife management practices. Careful planning is required to conduct safe and effective prescribed burns. Periodic burning can be used to reduce perennial grass dominance, increase plant diversity and remove excess plant litter, making it easier for wildlife to move through the stand. In most instances it is important to burn only one-third to one-half of the CRP acres on a farm. The unburned areas serve as nesting cover, while the burned areas provide brood-rearing and roosting cover during the summer and fall.

The timing of a prescribed burn is important because plant communities respond differently to burns at different times of the year. For instance, burning in mid to late spring will set back cool-season grasses and encourage native warm-season grasses. Early spring burns have the opposite effect. Fall and winter burning, on the other hand, generally favors forbs and legumes. It is generally good to burn every field on a two- to four-year rotation, mixing up the times of year you burn.

Strip Disking

Dense sod and vegetation are detrimental to wildlife feeding and movement. You can break up those elements by disking. This technique involves disking strips 25 to 75 feet wide through a field during fall or spring. Disked strips should be as long as possible. They should follow the contour of the field and

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