To make a good profit, farmers must maximize production from every potential cropland acre of the farm, creating a delicate balancing act between economics and good resource management. The slightest alteration in a crop field's structure can have a major impact on wildlife calling the area home.
When managing cropland:
- Follow best management practices for pest management.
- Use a crop rotation system that includes small grains and forage crops.
- Use cover crops for winter erosion control, soil health, and wildlife benefit.
- Follow soil test recommendations and use variable-rate fertilizer application.
- Use a no-till system. Avoid fall tillage. Crop residue protects the soil, and wildlife use the grain left behind from harvest throughout the winter.
- Plant native warm-season grass or wildlife-friendly cool-season grass around the borders of all or a portion of your crop fields.
- Establish wildlife-friendly grass filter strips around ponds and along creeks to reduce sedimentation, trap nutrients, and add wildlife cover.
- Seed waterways to wildlife-friendly grass/legume mixtures. Mow or hay after the primary nesting period of May 1 to July 15.
- Protect woody draws and fencerows. Spray these areas mid-to-late October with a herbicide to set back grass encroachment and encourage shrubby cover.
- Leave a minimum of 1/4 acre of unharvested standing crop for every 40 acres of crop field adjacent to good cover.
For more information, review the cropland management practices below. These practices can help you maximize production while providing essential wildlife habitat.