If mowing is one of your favorite summer pastimes, consider this: studies have shown that quail populations double in areas where “recreational" mowing stops. We recommend you learn to love the natural look in your idle areas, which provide cover for quail and other ground-nesting wildlife, such as songbirds and rabbits. Where quail are concerned, a mower should only be used to control weed growth in new shrub or grass plantings. If you limit mowing to your lawn and allow your roadsides and crop borders to go natural, you’ll be rewarded in the fall with more quail calls and better hunting.
Every year, farm bill conservation programs help thousands of Missouri landowners take care of millions of acres of wildlife habitat. In Benton County, the farm bill’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program is helping several landowners improve their farming operations and greater prairie chicken habitat in the Cole Camp/Hi Lonesome Conservation Opportunity area. EQIP funds have helped this group of landowners develop conservation grazing systems, implement waste and nutrient management plans, and improve their native grass pastures and hay meadows.
Wesley Borcher, who farms with his brother Winston in the conservation opportunity area, was in the process of seeding tallgrass prairie when we caught up with him in May. He is enthusiastic about eradicating fescue and restoring his native grass hayfields. “We like the native prairie hay—it’s worth more—and we want to see the quail come back,” he said. He also reports hearing prairie chickens boom on his family’s land. “One of the things I want to emphasize,” Wesley said, “is how good the people are to work with. We’ve gotten a lot of help from Kevin Ricke at NRCS, and the SWCD folks have really helped with equipment.”
Since 2002, $82 million in EQIP funds have helped more than 5,000 Missouri landowners conserve natural resources and improve habitat. This summer Congress will review the federal farm bill, which includes many voluntary conservation programs such as EQIP. To keep an eye on Congress’s treatment of farm bill conservation programs, see the links listed below.
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