Field Borders and Turnrows


Field Borders

A typical field border consists of a strip of non-crop herbaceous (soft-stemmed, non-woody) plants or shrubby vegetation that runs alongside the edge of the field. These areas can be intentionally managed around crop fields to create edge habitat within the agricultural landscape.

Field borders composed of grasses, forbs, legumes, and shrubs can be valuable sources of food and cover resources for wildlife. These borders can also provide valuable nesting and brood-rearing areas. 

Important: These areas should not be mowed unless absolutely necessary and only after the end of the primary nesting season around July 15.

Field borders next to woodlands, wooded fencerows, hedgerows, and other brushy areas offer more opportunities for wildlife.

Wide strip of black-eyed Susans, Queen Anne's Lace, and other wildflowers planted along the edge of a crop field
Pollinator-friendly field border
Right to Use

An idle field border can be just as beneficial to wildlife as a planted border. You can create this type of border next to a crop field simply by not tilling and then planting a strip at least 30 feet wide. In a pasture or hay field, you can moderately disk the border strip or spray with herbicide to set back the grass. The idle field borders will regenerate the following year with beneficial seed-producing annual broadleaf plants and weedy grasses.

For maximum wildlife benefit, cattle should be excluded from both types of field border.



Turnrows planted to a wildlife-friendly grass/legume mixture provide turning space for equipment and serve as a roadway along the field edge. Grass/legume borders provide cover for ground nesting wildlife such as cottontail rabbits, meadowlarks, pheasant, and quail. These areas can be mowed, hayed, or burned every two years to prevent woody sprout invasion.