Planning CRP seed mixes for future grazing

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency (FSA) opened a general Conservation Reserve Program signup that began May 20 and ran through June 14, 2013.

Although the current CP25 program does not include a managed grazing option, the program does have great potential and options to help producers plan now for future conversion of the CRP acres to pasture after the expiration of the 10 or 15-year contract, says Pete Bauman, SDSU Extension Range Specialist.

“The key is selecting the right suite of species for the future grazing plan,” he said.

Planting native legumes like purple and white prairie clover, Canada milkvetch and Illinois bundleflower will meet the conservation requirements by providing excellent wildlife habitat while enhancing future forage value for grazing.

This general signup will be the typical bid-in system where the landowner offers the acres and a cover plan. The project is then evaluated and ranked on such factors as erosion potential of soils, diversity of potential cover, air and water quality benefits, and whether the acres lie within a “conservation priority area” or a “wildlife priority zone”

“The greatest single factor that producers can influence in whether their land will be selected for enrollment or not is the type of cover they plant. More diverse plantings that include forbs are ranked highest in the evaluation process and are great options for future grazing projects,” Bauman said.

The CP25 mix for ‘rare and declining habitat’ consists of eight grass species and seven forbs/legumes. During the last general signup, Bauman says nearly all South Dakota producers that applied with a CP25 mix were accepted.

“Again, although the CP25 is not eligible for managed haying or grazing during the contract period, it can be a high quality pasture mix to be used once the CRP contract expires,” he said.

Other high ranking mixes include CP2/CP4D ‘Native Grass Establishment’ mixes, which include at least five species of native grasses and forbs. These cover types are eligible for managed grazing in the fifth year of the CRP contract.

A little background

The history of federal involvement in soil preservation dates back to dust bowl era of the 1930’s with the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act. This was the first in a long series of ‘Farm Bills’ that continue to guide our soil and water conservation strategies today. Currently, one of the most popular soil conservation programs is CRP. CRP is cooperatively administered under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FSA and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).