It’s hard to tell what Carroll County resident Ben Teevan likes most about the Conservation Reserve Program—the quail and songbirds or the improved soil and cleaner water. Through rental payments and cost-share, CRP helps Ben and other participating landowners convert highly erodible cropland to grasses, shrubs, trees, filterstrips or riparian buffers. Although Ben says there’s no more beautiful sight than a covey of quail, he maintains that CRP “goes beyond wildlife. It’s about conserving the land and water.”
CRP is among the many farm bill conservation programs Congress is reviewing this summer. The new farm bill will most likely continue CRP but favor targeted efforts and conservation buffers. Currently, Missouri has 38,000 CRP contracts, totaling 1.6 million acres and bringing in $105 million annually to Missouri landowners. To track Congress’ treatment of CRP this summer, see the links listed below.
Spring burns improve native warm-season grass stands, but they decrease wildflower vigor—and your prairie’s natural diversity. Wildflowers such as coneflower and partridge pea also provide wildlife cover and forage. To strengthen your prairie’s forb component—and open up grass stands for ground-nesting birds—burn some of your grassland every fall. This leaves enough cover for wildlife this winter and prepares for richer habitat next year. Remember, any prescribed burn requires safe weather conditions and adequate fire lines.
To attract deer for viewing or harvest, plant green browse food plots. Clover, alfalfa and wheat provide protein-rich vegetation during the critical growth period of early spring. Grain plots, on the other hand, offer energy for maintenance during the cold winter months. Establish green browse plots near cover and away from roads to reduce the potential for poaching. A patchwork of plots is better than one large one.
To plant, fertilize and prepare the seedbed in mid-August to early September. Broadcast with wheat at one bushel per acre and disc lightly to cover the seed. In late February or early March, broadcast a mixture of red, ladino and white Dutch clovers. For full details about planting green browse, see the links listed below.
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