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A CRP warm-season grass stand responds well to prescribed fires by removing

the litter buildup, increasing the diversity, creating open area on the ground and
enhancing plants that attract insects.
Table of Contents

The Study Area and what we’ve learned.................................................3

The Focus On Pheasants Partnership ..................................................12

CRP Mid Contract Management ............................................................15

Focus Area Research .............................................................................26

CRP Mid Contract Management: State Reports ...................................47

Notes ........................................................................................................58
The CRP Mid Contract Management Tours conducted in 2004 and 2005 are just some of many efforts
focused on improving the wildlife benefits associated with CRP grass stands. Sharing information
with landowners and biologists is an important part of Focus On Pheasants, CRP-MAP and CRP Mid
Contract Management.

2
3
This photo shows the location of the Focus On Pheasants - Focus Area located
within Stanton County, Nebraska. This 32-square mile area was selected as a fo-
cus area in the state based on the amount of CRP tracts in the area (shown in gold
and purple), CRP tracts enrolled into the CRP-MAP program, interest in the area
landowners in participating in the program and the historical number of pheasants
in the area.

Those tracts highlighted in gold have had some form of Mid Contract Manage-
ment performed on them since the spring of 2003. The tracts highlighted in pur-
ple have not had management performed on them due to the presence of a his-
torical noxious weed problem, the need for control areas with the research pro-
jects being conducted or landowners not wanting to participate in the program.

4
Focus Area Timeline
2002
• Written in collaboration among NGPC, PF and NRCS biologists, the Focus On Pheasants
plan was approved by the NGPC Board of Commissioners in May.
• Selected Focus Areas (See page 16 for a complete list of all Focus Areas in the state).
• Discuss objectives and coordinate efforts between NGPC, PF, FSA (local staff, county committee,
and state office staff), NRCS (local and state office staff) and area landowners.
• Hired one full-time biologist position (1-year contract) to implement the plan.
• Designed evaluation procedures.
• Began making landowner contacts.

2003
• Disked and interseeded 1,000 acres on 37 different tracts of land owned by 24 different land-
owners.
• Conducted spring pheasant crowing surveys.
• Initiated pilot study on the grassland bird response to disking and interseeding.
• Conducted August roadside pheasant brood surveys.
• Conducted habitat tours of the focus area for NGPC, PF, local FSA and NRCS and area land-
owners. Discussed the results and landowner satisfaction.
• Monitored noxious weed response and spot treated by spraying 1,000 acres – some landown-
ers did this themselves.
• Applied for and received a State Wildlife Grant to initiate a Grassland Bird Study. The study
will be conducted through Oklahoma State University to monitor response to habitat work.
• Enrolled 780 acres of CRP in the focus area into the CRP-MAP access program.

2004
• Disk and interseeded additional 1,100 acres on 44 tracts of land owned by 26 landowners.
• Conducted spring pheasant crowing counts.
• Began Grassland Bird Study.
• Initiated pilot pheasant telemetry study to determine nesting and brood rearing habitat prefer-
ences.
• Initiated insect study to measure response to uniform management treatments.
• Hosted the 1st CRP Mid Contract Management Tour in August.
• Conducted August roadside pheasant brood surveys.
• Monitored noxious weed response and spot treated by spraying 2,100 acres.
• Enrolled additional 240 acres of CRP into the CRP-MAP walk-in access program.

5
Focus Area Timeline
2005
• Disked and interseeded 100 additional acres.
• Initiated a demonstration of Glyphosate herbicide application and interseeding legumes.
• Initiated a demonstration of Select® herbicide on brome that had been disked and interseeded
in previous years.
• Initiated a demonstration prescribed burn and interseeding legumes.
• Conducted spring crow counts.
• Began Pheasant Telemetry Project to monitor response by radio collaring 50 pheasant hens.
The study is conducted through the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
• Second year of Grassland Bird Study.
• Conduct August roadside pheasant brood survey.
• Monitor noxious weeds and spot treat by spraying and chopping 2,300 acres.
• Conduct 2nd Mid-Contract Management Tour in June.
• Conduct 2nd Twilight Habitat Tour in July.
• 2 Stanton County Landowners – Dale Clark and Al Platt receive recognition for FOP efforts at
Pheasant Fest in Omaha.
• Expanded individual field demonstrations to most counties in northeast Nebraska.
• Presented Grassland Bird and Pheasant Telemetry preliminary results at annual meeting of
The Wildlife Society.

2006
• Continue monitoring the management techniques being applied in the study area.
• Completed 2nd year of pheasant telemetry study.
• Conduct additional demonstrations of different mid-contract management techniques.
• Conduct field tours and presentations of data.
• Presented Grassland Songbird study results at the Perdix meeting.
• Presented Grassland Songbird and Pheasant Telemetry study results at annual State Habitat
Meeting.

6
CRP Mid Contract Management
~ Observations and Opinions ~

Disking and Interseeding


• Two passes minimum is required in stands of smooth bromegrass or switchgrass. In some
cases, our efforts have reached as high as five passes with a disk. Even aggressive disking in
this fashion does not make fields susceptible to erosion. It is far easier to disk “too little” than it
is to disk “too much”.
• Haying or burning the grass stand prior to disking reduces litter and improves the ease of disk-
ing, but is not crucial to achieving good results. Removal of litter may decrease the number of
disking passes necessary to achieve the desired impact and results.
• Smooth bromegrass typically returns aggressively in the 3rd growing season following manage-
ment. While the smooth bromegrass comes back aggressively, the grass stand can still provide
good structure and nesting cover at that point.
• Disking prior to September 15th on smooth bromegrass does not sufficiently set the grass stand
back. Regrowth occurs within months and significantly reduces the effective length of the treat-
ment by at least one season.
• Disking smooth bromegrass in the spring is the most effective treatment, but the ability to ac-
complish field work prior to May 1st is often determined by weather.
• Care should be taken to stay out of waterways and away from the field borders when selecting
areas for disking.
• Care should be taken to identify areas of known noxious weed infestations and then design work
around these areas. If the area had a history of noxious weeds prior to enrollment in CRP, it will
have noxious weeds following a disking.
• Frank discussions with landowners about early successional plants (weeds) need to be discussed
prior to initiation of work. The landowners tolerance to early successional plants and desire for
more wildlife will help guide your management technique application.
• Effective communication with USDA field office, local weed superintendent, landowners, and
media can greatly increase support for habitat improvements such as this. This partnership has
been enhanced by substantial support from the media, partners and landowners.
• The legume seeding mixtures used (see page 57 for a list of mixtures) produced desirable plant com-
position and structure. The addition of white sweetclover to mixtures may be desirable due to
it’s later maturation date.
• Annual plant responses varied from site to site. Generally speaking, common sunflower and an-
nual foxtail are the primary annuals that show up in the first growing season. Common sunflow-
ers virtually disappears from the site after the first year.

7
CRP Mid Contract Management
~ Observations and Opinions ~

Prescribed fire and haying


• Prescribed fire on warm-season CRP grass stands can be effective in reducing cool-season grass
encroachment and for certain tree control if timed correctly. It also reduces grass litter and invigo-
rates regrowth. Some annual plants also respond favorably to the increased sunlight penetration.
• To reduce the encroachment of cool-season grasses, late April burns are recommended.
• The reduction of litter following a burn provides an excellent opportunity to:
♦ Disk and interseed a mixture of legumes.
♦ Increase disturbance on the site.
♦ Use a no-till drill to interseed legumes into the existing grass stand.
• Prescribed fire on an established cool-season grass stand does very little to improve the grass
stand composition or diversity. It will reduce the litter and can be effective in controlling some
woody plants.
• Haying can also reduce litter and provide an opportunity to either disk and interseed or to apply
other management techniques. Interseeding a legume mixture directly into a hayed cool-season
grass stand without another form of disturbance produced minimal benefits that will last for a short
period of time.
• Haying that is performed on a site 3 to 5 years after an initial upgrade has provided positive wildlife
benefits. Even on sites where the cool-season grasses have returned aggressively, haying the site
has brought back a flush of legume growth.
• Haying activities are restricted from being used during the primary nesting season dates of May 1st
to July 15th.

8
CRP Mid Contract Management
~ Observations and Opinions ~

Noxious Weeds
• Noxious weeds were identified as an issue to be addressed in the planning of Focus On Pheasant
activities. The plants on Nebraska’s noxious weed list that were anticipated to be of concern in-
cluded musk, plumeless, and Canada thistles.
• CRP tracts with a history of thistle problems and where thistle seeds were present in the seed
bank were more problematic than tracts with limited thistle history. When thistle problems oc-
curred on CRP tracts that had been disked and interseeded with legumes as part of the Focus On
Pheasants project, appropriate treatments were applied.
• Those treatments included hand chopping, spot shredding, and spot spraying with appropriate her-
bicides. If thistle problems were widespread over a large area, then a blanket application of appro-
priate herbicide that was labeled for legumes and/or shredding of affected areas were treatments
that provided acceptable results.
• Communication and cooperation among all involved entities were the key to resolving noxious
weed problems on CRP tracts while still developing and maintaining desired vegetative diversity
provided by the interseeded legumes.
• The key message here is that if an area had a known history of noxious weeds prior to its enroll-
ment in CRP, Mid Contract Management activities will bring those noxious weeds out again. Any
activities that disturb the soil will allow those early successional stage plants to reappear.

9
CRP Mid Contract Management
~ Observations and Opinions ~

Chemical burn back and interseeding


• Where disking is not feasible, chemical burn back using a Glyphosate herbicide may provide a
good alternative.
• Situations where the use of herbicide might be preferred include areas with known noxious weed
infestations, lack of tillage equipment, or hayed cool-season grass stands.
• The use of Select® herbicide or other non-broadleaf herbicides may offer some hope for reducing
the regrowth of cool-season grasses in upgraded areas.
• Our experience has found that when controlling smooth bromegrass with a Glyphosate, an appli-
cation of 28+ ounces per acre with an AMS applied between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm on a warm
day works best.

Haying and Spraying recommendations developed for use in the Focus On Pheasants partnership by Jim Brown,
Natural Resource Specialist, US Army Corps of Engineers Republican City, NE.

10
CRP Mid Contract Management
~ Observations and Opinions ~

Final Thoughts
• Cost share rates, generally speaking, are too low. Even for landowners that seriously desire to
see habitat improvement and for those that are only conducting this work as a requirement of
CRP, this will be viewed as a financial burden or will result in sub par results due to lack of
awareness.
• There are very few certainties in life…...two that can be applied to CRP Mid Contract Manage-
ment are:

1). You can’t ever kill off smooth bromegrass with any amount of disking.
2). If you had noxious weeds before enrollment in CRP, they will show up
again following disking.
• While USDA technical guides are pretty complete at describing maximum management efforts
(how deep to disk, how many passes, percent reside, etc.), they are generally weak on outlining the
minimum management efforts required to accomplish the desired results.

• Our experience showed that minimum management efforts


typically produced minimum, if any, results.

11
Focus On Pheasants
Focus On Pheasants is a partnership effort formed in 2002 that brings to-
gether a unique combination of Federal, State and Local government agen-
cies, conservation groups, private industry and landowners.

This combination of groups have come together in an effort to improve mature grass stands
throughout the state and provide better pheasant habitat. The average CRP field in Nebraska is
now 16 years old and has had little or no management performed on it during the life of its con-
tract.

The primary focus of this partnership has been to increase the wildlife habitat quality and diversity
of CRP grass stands using the following management tools:
• Controlled burns
• Interseeding legumes
• Disking
• Chemical herbaceous vegetation control
• Haying

The Focus On Pheasants Partnership

13
Focus On Pheasants

Dixon County

Stanton County

14
Kimball County

Harlan County Branched Oak


Nebraska One Box Sherman Reservoir
Reservoir WMA WMA
Foundation

Location of Focus Areas within Nebraska


GENERAL CRP PRACTICE

Required Management Following


Establishment

A mid-contract management activity for the purpose of improving plant diversity and wildlife habitat conditions must be con-
ducted a minimum of one time during the contract period. CP-10 areas require a minimum of two management activities, at
contract beginning and mid-contract. CP-25 prairie areas in Vegetative Zones III & IV require a minimum of two management
activities on contracts longer than 10 years. Refer to appropriate FOTG standard and Nebraska Conservation Planning Sheet
20 for specifications associated with each practice and other details.

Acres enrolled into CP-3, CP-3A, and CP-11 shall utilize guidance provided under “Tree Planting/Forestry” for Continuous CRP
and CREP Practices. No management is required for acres enrolled into CP-12 (Food Plots) but proper maintenance is re-
quired to meet the purposes of that practice.

Management CRP Practice FOTG Conditions and Limitations Required


Option Practice Interval*
Tillage and CP1-Introduced Grasses 647 Managed Haying***, Prescribed Burning, or Vegetative Zones III & IV -
Interseeding and Legumes Early Succes- Mowing/Shredding may also be needed to every 3-5 years once
CP2-Native Grasses sional Habitat remove excessive residue prior to tillage/ established;
CP4B/4D-Permanent Wild- Development/ seeding. Vegetative Zones I & II -
life Habitat Management Interseeding may be conducted without tillage every 5-7 years once
CP10-Vegetative Cover on sandy sites with a Wind Erodibility fac- established
Already Established tor (I) of 134 or greater provided an inter- Note: Tillage may be
seeder or similar device is used to create needed and recommended
some limited disturbance. more frequently on sites
Interseeding must be conducted under this op- with aggressive sod-
tion. Broadcast seeding is only allowed if forming grasses such as
tillage is completed prior to, or following smooth brome or switch-
seeding and seeding rates are doubled. grass.
Interseeding CP25-Rare and Declining 643 Mowing/Shredding, or Prescribed Burning may Vegetative Zones III & IV -
Native Forbs Habitats (prairie sites Restoration & also be needed to remove excessive resi- every 3-5 years once
Only only) Management of due prior to seeding. established;
Declining Habi- Drilling of native species provided an inter- Vegetative Zones I & II -
tats seeder or similar device is used to create every 5-7 years once
some limited disturbance or a “burn-down” established
herbicide is used to reduce competition
from existing, perennial species in order to
enhance establishment of the seeded spe-
cies.
Prescribed CP1-Introduced Grasses 338 Broadcast seeding is only allowed if tillage is Vegetative Zones III & IV -
Burning ** and Legumes Prescribed completed prior to, or following seeding every 3-5 years once
CP2-Native Grasses Burning and seeding rates are doubled. established;
CP4B/4D-Permanent Wild- Use techniques (timing, intensity, etc.) to pro- Vegetative Zones I & II -
life Habitat vide a benefit to plant diversity and wildlife every 5-7 years once
CP10-Vegetative Cover habitat. established.

Chemical Her- CP1-Introduced Grasses 643 Managed Haying***, Prescribed Burning, or Vegetative Zones III & IV -
baceous Vege- and Legumes Restoration & Mowing/Shredding may also be needed to every 3-5 years once
tation Control ** CP2-Native Grasses Management of remove excessive residue prior to herbi- established;
CP4B/4D-Permanent Wild- Declining Habi- cide application. Vegetative Zones I & II -
life Habitat tats Not a substitute for noxious weed control or every 5-7 years once
CP10-Vegetative Cover and weed control during establishment. established.
Already Established 647 Broadcast seeding is only allowed if tillage is
CP25-Rare and Declining Early Succes- completed prior to, or following seeding
Habitats (prairie sites sional Habitat and seeding rates are doubled.

16
GENERAL CRP PRACTICE

Required Management Following


Establishment

~ Continued ~

* Management activities may be conducted and cost-shared more frequently than the required interval, provided that the
activity is technically justified, improves wildlife habitat, and is not prohibited by 2-CRP paragraph 484.

** Interseeding of desired legumes or native grasses and/or forbs is recommended and can be cost-shared in conjunction
with this activity.

*** Managed Haying used in conjunction with tillage/interseeding or chemical herbaceous vegetation control can be util-
ized when necessary to remove excessive residue. Haying will result in a CRP program payment reduction. Managed
haying, by itself, will not provide the necessary vegetative response to meet the CRP management intent. Lands en-
rolled in CP-25 are not currently eligible for managed haying.

Note: High-intensity/short-duration grazing, if technically justified, may be substituted for, or used in conjunction with,
these management options. The primary area where this is applicable is western Nebraska and the Sandhills region.
Grazing will result in a CRP payment reduction. Managed grazing strategies other than high-intensity/short-duration will
not, by themselves, provide the necessary vegetative response to meet the CRP management intent. Lands enrolled in
CP-25 are not currently eligible for managed grazing.

Early Successional Habitat Management (tillage) shall not be conducted within 50 feet of property boundaries without the
approval of the adjacent landowner or within 50 feet of field boundaries along State and County improved roads and

17
EARLY SUCCESSIONAL HABITAT DEVELOPMENT/MANAGEMENT (647)-1

NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE


CONSERVATION PRACTICE STANDARD

EARLY SUCCESSIONAL HABITAT DEVELOPMENT/MANAGEMENT


(ac.)

CODE 647

DEFINITION Vegetative manipulation to maximize plant and


animal diversity can be accomplished by distur-
Manage early plant succession to benefit desired wild- bance practices including prescribed burning,
life or natural communities. light disking, low density seeding, tree or brush
removal, mowing, grazing, herbicide application,
water level manipulation, or a combination of the
PURPOSE above. Following such activities, early succes-
• Increase plant community diversity. sional plants will typically establish themselves
• Provide habitat for early successional wildlife spe- from the existing soil seed bank or from relatively
cies. dormant plants and rootstocks.
• Provide habitat for declining species.
Early successional plants may also be estab-
lished through deliberate seeding or planting.
CONDITIONS WHERE PRACTICE APPLIES Native adapted plant materials will be used when-
ever possible, but introduced species or even
On all lands where early successional habitat is to be mixtures of native and introduced species may be
established and/or maintained in a condition suitable for appropriate depending upon objectives.
the desired wildlife and plant species.
All seed and planting materials shall be labeled
CRITERIA and meet state seed law and NRCS seed quality
standards (refer to FOTG Section II, Pasture and
Early successional management will be designed to Hayland Interpretations, Grass and Forb Seed
achieve the desired plant community in density, vertical Source Requirements).
and horizontal structure, and plant species diversity.
It is recommended that legume seed of intro-
Methods used will be designed to maintain soil erosion duced species shall be inoculated with the
quality criteria unless the habitat being managed is de- proper, viable rhizobia before planting.
pendent on active erosion processes, for example, Management practices and activities are not to
blowouts or sparsely vegetated sand and gravel bars. disturb cover during the primary nesting period
For other habitats, an annual cover crop shall be estab- for grassland species. Exceptions may be al-
lished if soil erosion is expected to exceed T during or lowed when necessary to maintain the health of
subsequent to the year vegetation is manipulated. Re- the plant community. Mowing may be needed
fer to Cover Crop (340) standard for temporary covers during the plant establishment period to control
to reduce erosion that are compatible with the desired undesired vegetation.
permanent cover. Measures must be provided to control noxious
weeds in order to comply with state noxious weed
laws.

Spraying or other forms of noxious weed control


will be done on a “spot” basis to protect insect
food sources for grassland nesting birds and to
protect forbs and legumes that benefit native pol-
linators and other wildlife.

NE-T.G. Notice 540


Section IV
Conservation practice standards are reviewed periodically, and updated if needed. To obtain
the current version of this standard, contact the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
NRCS-JULY 2003

18
EARLY SUCCESSIONAL HABITAT DEVELOPMENT/MANAGEMENT (647)-1

This standard is not to be used where plant communi- Managing for early successional plant communi-
ties considered as rare and declining will be adversely ties is beneficial if not essential for less mobile
impacted. Refer to the Restoration and Management animal species. The less mobile the species, the
of Declining Habitats (643) standard and specification. more important to provide all the habitat require-
ments in a small area.

CONSIDERATIONS Design and install the practice to facilitate opera-


tion of machinery or prescribed burning activities.
To minimize harm to nesting birds, make every at-
When ever possible, lay out strips to have some
tempt to avoid conducting soil or vegetation disturbing
multiple or full width passes by all farm imple-
activities from April 1 to August 1 (most nesting gen-
ments. Mowing of herbaceous cover for weed
erally occurs in Nebraska between April 15 and July
control is strongly discouraged but may be used
15). When those dates cannot be avoided, document
during the plant establishment period, alone or in
in the plan or note the reason why and/or what meas-
conjunction with other practices to control unde-
ures are planned that will reduce or localize adverse
sired competitive vegetation.
impacts. (For Example, disking may be conducted
early in the nesting season because of prolonged wet
Grazing may be used as a management tool to
field conditions. Disking will be done on a rotational
achieve the intended purpose of this practice. A
basis to allow some areas to remain undisturbed each
grazing plan designed for habitat improvement
year.)
that addresses grazing frequency, intensity, and
duration is required.
All habitat manipulations will be planned and man-
aged according to soil capabilities. Recommenda-
This practice may be used to promote the conser-
tions for management will avoid excessive soil loss
vation of declining species, including threatened
when consistent with project goals.
and endangered (plant, wildlife or aquatic) spe-
cies.
Consider potential vehicular safety concerns posed by
tall vegetation adjacent to roads and highways. Road
intersections and areas with high big game popula-
tions may be of special concern. Consider “setting
PLANS AND SPECIFICATIONS
back” from the field border 50 to 100 feet as appropri- Specifications for this practice shall be prepared
ate. for each site. Specifications shall be recorded
using approved specifications sheets, job sheets,
Consider the potential for the spread of undesired narrative statements in the conservation plan, or
early successional plants (annual weeds) onto other acceptable documentation.
neighboring lands. Consider consulting with adjacent
landowners about planned activities. If appropriate,
consider “setting back” from property boundaries. OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE
Consider managing vegetation under a scheduled The following actions shall be carried out to insure
rotational plan so that only a portion of the area is dis- that this practice functions as intended throughout
turbed in a given year. This will assure that some its expected life. These actions include normal
undisturbed habitat is available and that several suc- repetitive activities in the application and use of
cessional stages of cover are in close proximity. the practice (operation), and repair and upkeep of
Early successional treatments should be rotated the practice (maintenance).
throughout the managed area.
Any use of fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemi-
Treatment shall be accomplished whenever succes- cals to assure early successional management
sion has gone past the desired stages. shall not compromise the intended purpose.

NE-T.G. Notice 540


Section IV
Conservation practice standards are reviewed periodically, and updated if needed. To obtain
the current version of this standard, contact the Natural Resource Conservation Service. NRCS-JULY 2003

19
S-647a-1

PRACTICE SPECIFICATION

EARLY SUCCESSIONAL HABITAT DEVELOPMENT/MANAGEMENT

DISKING

1. SCOPE
Grass and/or legume seedings that have been established for many years can lose
vigor, productivity, and species diversity. Such stands are sometimes described as be-
ing “sod-bound” and usually have very little open soil surface between plants. Plants
may have low stature or produce less than normal amounts of seed or leaf material and
typically are dominated by only a few, or even one, perennial species. Annual plants
are generally absent.

The use of this activity on native prairie sites is generally not recommended. If used,
methods to maintain the integrity of the site need to be considered.

Ring-necked pheasant, gray (Hungarian) partridge, bobwhite quail, mourning doves,


and big game such as deer and pronghorn are popular wildlife species that require or
benefit from good quality early successional habitat. Disking or similar “non-inversion”
tillage operations can be useful for establishing or releasing early successional plants
and providing habitat for these wildlife species.

2. SITE LIMITATIONS
Disking will generally not be prescribed for areas of concentrated flow such as water-
ways, within 30 feet of streams and wetlands, sandy or bare sites with very little surface
residue or vegetative cover, sites with slopes greater than 20%, or sites with an ex-
tremely high risk of colonization by noxious weeds. Disking should not be conducted if
poor soil moisture conditions are likely to delay plant regrowth and seed germination.

Disking on sloping ground will be done on the contour. Multiple equipment passes are
acceptable. To prevent excessive (greater than T) water erosion, sites with slopes
greater than 9% and areas within 100 feet of streams and wetlands will maintain a mini-

NE T. G. 552
Section IV
NRCS-SEPTEMBER 2004

20
S-647a-2

Exceptions are allowed if wider strips are justified and documented through the use of
current erosion prediction tools. The width of the undisturbed area between disked
strips will be 20 feet or greater.

Max. Contour Strip Width Slope%

200 feet 9 to 11
150 feet 12 to 15
100 feet 16 to 20

3. DISKING DEPTH AND INTENSITY


Disking depth (ground penetration) and intensity will be prescribed by NRCS based on
soil type, slope, existing cover, purpose of disking, and producer’s objectives.

Maximum depth for nonsandy sites dominated by smooth brome, switchgrass, or reed
canarygrass will be 6 inches if slopes are equal to or less than 9%. Maximum depth
for all other sites will be 4 inches.

4. DISKING DATES
Disking may be done between July 15 and May 1 and will be prescribed at the opti-
mum time to achieve desired results. Disking between August 15 and September 15
appears optimal for aggressive, sod-forming grasses to prevent immediate response
(re-growth within exposed soils) under optimum growing conditions. For sites where
erosion is of concern, such as sandy sites, or where specific, undesirable weeds may
be problematic such as downy brome, sandbur, etc., disturbance in early
spring is recommended.

5. DESIRABLE EARLY SUCCESSIONAL PLANTS


Desirable early successional plants are those that:

Produce seeds that are consumed by birds and small mammals or;

Provide forage for insects preferred by birds and small mammals or;

Provide cover that hides young wildlife (especially upland game bird chicks) but that
still has sufficiently low plant stem densities to allow easy chick movement.

Examples of desirable early successional plants are shown in Table 1.


NE T. G. 552
Section IV
NRCS-SEPTEMBER 2004

21
S-647a-3

6. SEEDED FORBS AND LEGUMES


Most sites have a soil seed bank that contains sufficient kinds and amounts viable seed.
The existing seed bank can be supplemented by drilling or broadcasting seed of desired
species. In addition to the use of crops suitable for use as wildlife food plots, the species
listed in Table 2 are some that can be used provided they are adapted to the site. They can
be seeded between August 15 and September 15 or between November 1 and May 15.
Refer to Pasture and Hayland Planting (512) and FOTG Section II Pasture and Hayland
Interpretations Table 2 to determine the adaptability of additional species. The use of two
or more species is recommended. Legume seed of introduced species shall be inocu-
lated in accordance with the directions on the inoculant container. Use the correct inocu-
lant for each legume species.

7. OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE


Reapply this practice periodically to set back succession and restore the desired habitat
conditions.

Monitor wildlife use to determine practice success and to better prescribe future habitat
management activities.

Control noxious and other undesirable plant species as needed.

NE T. G. 552
Section IV
NRCS-SEPTEMBER

22
S-647a-4

Table 1. Desirable Early Successional Plants and Preferred Sites


GENUS NAME COMMON NAME PREFERRED SITE
Amaranthus Pigweeds Uplands/Moist Sites

Ambrosia Ragweeds Uplands/Moist Sites


Bidens Beggarticks Wetlands
Brassica/Sisymbrium Mustards Uplands
Cannabis Hemp Uplands/Moist Areas
Chenopodium Lambsquarters Uplands
Cleome Rocky Mt. Beeplant Uplands
Conyza Marestail Uplands
Croton Texas Croton Uplands
Digitaria Crabgrasses Uplands
Echinocloa Barnyardgrass Wetlands/Moist Sites
Galium Bedstraw Moist Sites
Helianthus Annual Sunflowers Uplands
Iva Marshelder Uplands/Moist Sites
Kochia Kochia Uplands
Lactuca Prickly Lettuce Uplands
Malva Common Mallow Uplands
Medicago Black Medic Uplands
Melilotus Sweetclover Uplands
Oxalis Yellow Woodsorrel Uplands
Panicum Witchgrass Uplands
Plantago Plantains Uplands/Moist Sites
Polygonum Smartweeds Wetlands/Moist Sites
Rumex Docks Uplands
Setaria Foxtails Uplands
Stellaria Chickweeds Uplands
Taraxacum Dandelion Uplands
Thlaspi Pennycress Uplands
Veronica Speedwells Uplands

NE T. G. 552
Section IV
NRCS-SEPTEMBER 2004

23
S-647a-5

Table 2. Desirable Forbs and Legumes with Seeding Information


(See Pasture and Hayland Interpretations, Section II of FOTG for more specific information.)

Single
Species Vegetative Species
Site Adaptability
Zone Seeding
Rate 1
Alfalfa Statewide All Except Wet Sites 3.0 to 5.0
Sweet Clover Statewide Adapted to Most Sites 2.0 to 4.0
Red Clover III, IV Loamy, Fertile Soils 2.0 to 4.0
White Clover (Ladino) II, III, IV Avoid Dry, Sandy Soils 0.5 to 1.0
Alsike Clover III, IV Moist and Wet Soils 0.5 to 1.5
Strawberry Clover I, II Moist, High pH Soils 1.5 to 3.0
Crownvetch III, IV Infertile Poor Soils 4.0 to 8.0
Hairy Vetch I, II, III Sandy Soils - Aggressive 5.0 to 10.0 *
Cicer Milkvetch I, II, III High pH, Calcareous Soils 3.5 to 7.0
Sainfoin I, II Dry, Calcareous Soils 10.0 to 20.0 *
Birdsfoot Trefoil IV Adaptable to Many Sites 1.5 to 3.0
Maximillian Sunflower Statewide Native Forb–Aggressive 1.0 to 2.0 *
Purple Prairieclover Statewide Native Legume 2.0 to 4.0
Canada Milkvetch Statewide Native Legume 2.0 to 4.0
Illinois Bundleflower III, IV Native Legume-Moist Soils 5.0 to 10.0 *
Showy Partridgepea II, III, IV Native Legume–Annual 5.0 to 10.0 *

1
Rates provided are for pounds of pure live seed per acre drilled as a single species.
Reduce rates proportionately when using two or more species in a mixture.
Rates will be doubled if broadcast.

* Recommended seeding rates have been reduced from amounts noted in Section II, FOTG –
Pasture and Hayland Interpretations, Table 2. Pure Live Seeding Rates and MLRA Adaptation – due
to aggressive nature and/or high cost of extensive seeding rates.

NE T. G. 552
Section IV
NRCS-SEPTEMBER 2004

24
Is This Good or Bad?
The interpretation of the results from Mid Contract Management activities is often
left to the eye of the beholder. Wildlife Biologists will look at this field and see an
abundance of broad-leaved forbs, open areas on the ground, no noxious weeds
present, plants that attract insects for young chicks and lots of diversity…….just
what we are looking for from CRP Mid Contract Management activities!

A landowner or neighbor that is unprepared for these results may have an entirely
different opinion of the management activity results. Taking the time to determine
landowner goals and objectives and the history of the site will add to the wildlife
benefits created above by preparing landowners for the expected results.

Very few things related to wildlife management happen overnight. Conducting


proper CRP Mid Contract Management activities is one of the few management
practices that can produce a wildlife response in a short timeline.

25
In the Focus On Pheasant “Focus Area” located in Stanton County, several research projects have
been started in the last few years to begin to document the wildlife and vegetative responses to CRP
grass stand treatments.

Some of the investigations conducted include:


1. Invertebrate abundance in CRP fields. Three different efforts have been conducted from 2000 to
2005, that looked at the effects of disking and interseeding legumes on key brood habitat compo-
nents in CRP fields.
2. Evaluation of Ring-necked Pheasant Response to Disking and Interseeding Legumes on Con-
servation Reserve Program Fields in Northeast Nebraska. Initiated in 2004 by the Nebraska
Game & Parks Commission and expanded as a University of Nebraska - Lincoln graduate project,
evaluating the response of ring-necked pheasants to landscape scale habitat manipulations.
3. Spring Pheasant Crowing Counts and August Roadside Surveys. Conducted from 2003 to
2007, the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission is conducting surveys in focus areas and control
areas to determine the influence of habitat improvements on pheasant abundance.
4. Grassland bird response to Disking/Interseeding of legumes in Conservation Reserve Pro-
gram lands in Northeast Nebraska. Initiated in 2004, a graduate research study from Oklahoma
State University is looking at grassland songbird responses to habitat improvement efforts on CRP
fields.
The results of these studies are summarized in this booklet today and will be expanded upon
throughout the tour by the researchers. These efforts are documenting the results of CRP Mid Con-
tract Management efforts on a landscape scale and providing early information about what manage-
ment techniques are most effective.

27
Insect and Vegetation Responses to Disking and Interseeding Legumes on
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Fields in Eastern Nebraska

Scott Taylor, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission

Background
In the spring of 2000, the Wildlife Division of Nebraska Game and Parks recognized the need for information regarding the effects of
light disking and interseeding with regard to pheasant brood habitat components on CRP fields. These management actions are re-
quired on CRP fields enrolled in the Commission’s CRP-Management Access Program (CRP-MAP). The goal of management is to im-
prove nesting and brood rearing habitat on portions of these fields. The most important desired improvement was an increase in insect
abundance. Pheasants and many other grassland birds depend heavily upon insects in their diets during the summer. Desired vegeta-
tive improvements included increases in visual obstruction, plant diversity, and canopy coverage measurements. We sampled insects
and vegetation in portions of CRP fields with and without the disking and interseeding treatment to determine the effects of this manage-
ment technique.

Methods
We sampled 4 different field types. 1) CRP fields planted to cool season grasses, with a portion of the field disked and interseeded with
legumes (alfalfa, yellow sweetclover, and/or red clover), 2) CRP fields planted to warm season grasses, with a portion of the field disked
and interseeded with legumes, 3) either cool or warm season CRP fields with a portion of the field planted to a high diversity seed mix-
ture (CP-25), and 4) native prairie hay fields. Transects were located > 20 m from field borders and ran parallel to the edge. We used
sweep nets to collect insects. We made 50 sweeps along each transect.

Highlights of Results
We acquired samples from 22 fields. In CRP fields, insect abundance was higher in treatment portions of both cool season and warm
season fields. Insect abundance in CP-25 plantings was similar to those in control portions of the fields.

Line to line variability in insect abundance was relatively high but field to field variability was relatively low. This suggested an uneven
distribution of insects within fields. If future sampling is done, an increased number of sample lines per field is suggested to reduce vari-
ability of mean abundance measurements.

Significant increases in both visual obstruction (height and density) and forb (broad-leafed plants) to grass ratios were observed on both
cool season and warm season CRP fields that were disked and interseeded with legumes. Litter (dead plant material) decreased signifi-
cantly after treatment.

This technique quickly improved nesting habitat (structurally) for pheasants and many other grassland dependent bird species. The re-
duction in litter and increase in insect abundance appears to have made these tracts more attractive for foraging and brood rearing as
well. As such, this technique shows promise for improving wildlife habitat on older CRP stands that have lost vegetative diversity.

28
Table 1. Mean biomass (g) of invertebrates sampled in several herbaceous community types in Nebraska during summer,
2000. Measurements represent the total biomass collected along 3 50-m transects per field; sample sizes are the
number of fields.

Interseeded or High
Untreated Portion of Field Diversity Portion of Field

Field Type n Mean SE Mean SE

Cool-season CRP 6 3.94 0.81 9.07 1.53

Warm-season CRP 6 2.66 0.97 9.31 1.71

CP-25 and adjacent CRP 5 5.74 1.76 4.85 2.90

Native prairie 5 8.21 2.48

Light disking and interseeding to improve brood habitat


Ron Leathers
Pheasants Forever, Inc.

Pheasants are early-successional species, relying heavily on a combination of grasses and weedy
forbs to produce seed and insect food sources. In particular, pheasant hens and chicks are heav-
ily dependant on insects as a primary food source during spring nesting and summer brood-
rearing. Hens must eat insect foods to meet their needs for high levels of calcium and protein to
produce eggs. Pheasant chicks are almost solely dependant on insects throughout their first sum-
mer to meet their needs for high calorie, high protein foods to reach maturity by winter. As
grasses grow, they tend to choke out these weedy forb species and can become nearly pure
stands of a single grass species, leaving pheasants and other birds without the food sources and
diversity they need to fully reach their population potential.

Nebraska’s CRP-Management Access Program is a joint program of Pheasants Forever and the
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission that promotes management of aging CRP grasslands to
set back grass growth and encourage reestablishment of forb species. The specific management
practice that is used for this program is light disking and interseeding legumes (typically alfalfa,
sweetclover, and red clover).

Some of the highlights of a 2001 & 2002 study on the CRP-MAP program’s management prac-
tices are presented below.

Invertebrates:
Managed fields had a much higher availability of insects and invertebrates than idle fields. The
increase was particularly pronounced in the native grass stands. Idle native grasses had the low-
est overall availability of invertebrates, translating into the least available food source for pheasant
chicks. However, managed native grasses had the highest availability of invertebrates and the
most food sources for chicks. Although less pronounced than in the natives, brome fields also
had more invertebrates when managed than when left idle.
29
Available invertebrates

3000
2500

Biomass (mg)
2000
Idle
1500
Managed
1000
500
0
Brome Native
Idle 1918.9 531.6
Managed 2334.3 2757.7

Vegetation changes: Planted legume cover


Managed fields had more legume cover than idle fields. Without 35
management, the average percent cover of legumes was less than 30
2% in brome fields and 0.5% in native grasses. After management, 25
legumes accounted for roughly 1/3rd of the total cover in brome fields Mean % 20 Idle
and 1/6th of the cover in native grasses. 15 Managed
10
Managed fields also had more forb cover (including the planted leg- 5
umes and any volunteer weedy forbs) than idle fields. Planted leg- 0
umes accounted for the majority of the forb cover in managed fields. Brome Native

Again, the percentage of forbs in idle fields was extremely low (<5%
in brome and <10% in natives) compared to the percentage in man-
aged fields (36% in brome and 28% in natives). Total % forb cover

One major concern of landowners is that disturbance of the soil sur- 40

face by light disking and interseeding could lead to increased nox- 35

ious weed growth. I found no evidence to suggest that the disking 30


25
Mean %

and interseeding activity promoted any more growth of noxious 20


Idle

weeds than would occur naturally in idle fields. The average in all 15
Managed

fields was less than 0.25% on all our study sites. 10


5

These concerns are not unfounded, however, as I have seen fields 0


Brome Native
with major histories of noxious weed problems that got much worse
when disked and I suggest not conducting management activities on
those portions of fields with a history of noxious weed problems to
avoid any possibility of future problems. Percent cover noxious weeds
Brome Natives
Idle Managed Idle Managed
2001 0 < 0.1 0 < 0.1
2002 < 0.1 0 < 0.1 0.2
Summary:
Light disking and interseeding legumes as a management practice for aging CRP fields tends to produce more diverse cover with a
higher proportion of legumes and forbs. Subsequently, invertebrate biomass is also higher in managed fields. The result is better brood
rearing cover for pheasants and other grassland nesting birds with more diverse vegetation and a greater amount of spring and summer
food resources for nesting hens and chicks.

30
Insect Response to Disking and Interseeding Legumes on
Conservation Reserve Program Lands in Northeast Nebraska

Jamie Bachmann, Oklahoma State University, Scott Taylor, Nebraska Game and Parks
Commission and Lucas Negus, Oklahoma State University.

Insects are important food resources for many grassland birds. A survey was conducted in 2004 to deter-
mine insect abundance, biomass and diversity in treated vs. untreated fields as part of the Grassland Bird
Study in the Stanton County Focus On Pheasants study area.

Eight of the sixteen fields used for the grassland bird study were chosen randomly for insect sampling. Of
those eight, four were disked and interseeded with yellow sweet clover, alfalfa, and red clover; and four
were control fields that received no treatment. Using a sweep net, three sub-samples of twenty sweeps
each were taken along 200 meter transects within each field. Samples were preserved sorted, identified,
dried, and weighed for biomass over the fall and winter of 2004-2005.

Preliminary statistics have been preformed to compare insect samples between treated and untreated
fields. Previous research has shown grasshoppers, butterflies, caterpillars, beetles, and spiders as being
the main food resource for grassland bird hatchlings. Graph 1 compares the total abundance of these in-
sects for July samples between treated and non-treated fields. Treated fields had an insect abundance of
2,951 and non-treated fields had an abundance of 1,021. Graph 2 compares the biomass, or dry weight,
of the same insects. Treated fields have nearly three times more biomass than non-treated fields.

Insect Abundance Insect Biomas


Treated Vs. Non Treated Fields Treated Vs. Non Treated Fields

3500 25
3000
20
B io m a s s ( m g )
Abun dance

2500
2000 15
1500
10
1000
500 5
0
0
Treated Not Treated
Treated Not Treated

Graph 1. Abundance of insects favored by grassland birds Graph 2. Biomass (dry weight) of insects favored by
in treated (disked/interseeded) and unmanaged fields. grassland birds in treated (disked/interseeded) and un-
managed fields.

31
Ring-neck Pheasant Habitat Selection and Productivity in
Landscapes Containing Disked and Interseeded CRP in
Northeast Nebraska
Ty Mathews and Larkin Powell
University of Nebraska - Lincoln

A decline in the quality and quantity of ring-necked pheasant nesting and brood-rearing habitat has
been hypothesized as a major factor limiting population growth in the Great Plains. Conservation
Reserve Program (CRP) was thought to reestablish this valuable habitat, but population response
was smaller than anticipated. Pheasant populations in Nebraska rose in the first 5-6 years of CRP
then declined thereafter. This decline is thought to be due to the change of vegetation composition
in these fields. Newly planted CRP fields (≤5 to 6 years) contain a high diversity of grasses, forbs, leg-
umes, and annual weeds with an abundance of bare ground needed by nesting pheasant hens and
their broods. Older fields (>6 years) are characterized by dense monoculture of grass with little bare
ground and thick litter. Disking and interseeding forbs into older CRP fields re-create the conditions
found in the newly planted fields.

Objectives
• Compare habitat use of pheasant hens and their broods in CRP fields that have been disked and
interseeded to unmanaged CRP fields and other grasslands
• Compare chick survival in CRP fields that have been disked and interseeded to unmanaged CRP
fields and other grasslands
• Determine the insect diet of pheasant chicks in all field types

32
Nest Survival
1 .0 0

0 .9 8
Daily Nest Survival
0 .9 6

0 .9 4

0 .9 2

0 .9 0
In t e r s e e d e d O th e r

2005
2006
P o o le d Y e a r s

CRP Nest Success


2005
Interseeded 53.3% (n=15)
Non-interseeded 37.5% (n=16)

2006
Interseeded 60.0% (n=10)
Non-interseeded 33.3% (n=18)

33
Available Habitat in
Focus Area
5000

4000

IS
Hectacre

3000

2000

1000

0
CRP Crop Other Grassland Other

Habitat Type

Nest Site Preference


0 .7

2005 Chi-square
0 .6 = 28.07
P <.0001
0 .5
Percent

0 .4

0 .3

0 .2

0 .1

0 .0

CRP In te rs e e d e d O th e r
A v a ila b le H a b ita t
N est

34
Hen Survival

1.0

0.8
Survival

0.6

0.4
3/1/2005 4/1/2005 5/1/2005 6/1/2005 7/1/2005 8/1/2005

Nest Survival
Raw Nest Success
Interseeded: 65% (n=20)
Non-interseeded: 55% (n=20)
Other: 42% (n=7)

Daily Nest Survival


Interseeded: 0.982 (95% CI= 0.963-.0992)
Non-interseeded: 0.977 (95% CI= 0.956-0.987)
Other: 0.964 (95% CI= 0.909-0.987)

35
2005 Nest Site Preference
0.5
Chi-square
= 28.07
0.4
P < 0.0001
Percent

0.3

0.2

0.1

0.0
Interseeded CRP OG Other

Nest
Available Habitat

2006 Nest Site Preference

0.5
Chi-square
= 39.31
0.4
P < 0.0001
Percent

0.3

0.2

0.1

0.0
Interseeded CRP OG Other

Nest
Available Habitat

36
2005 Nest Microhabitat
70 6

60 5
Percent Cover
50

Density (dm)
4
40
3
30
2
20

10 1

0 0
CSG W SG IF OF BG VOR
Nest
Random t-test: *** denotes p < 0.001

2006 Nest Microhabitat

60 5
******
***
50
4
Percent Cover

***
Density (dm)

40 ****** 3
30
2
20

1
10

0 0
CSG W SG IF OF BG VO R

N est
R andom
t-test: *** denotes p < 0.001

37
Brood Survival
AIC
Model AIC ∆AIC Weight k
year * int 36.65 0 0.34 3
int * alf 38.01 1.36 0.17 3
int 38.15 1.5 0.16 2
year * int * alf 38.44 1.79 0.14 5
No difference in
Survival 40.06 3.41 0.06 1
alf 40.46 3.81 0.05 2
year 41.17 4.52 0.04 2

Brood Survival
Int model
% Time in
Interseeded Survival 21-day
0.05 0.971 0.544
0.1 0.977 0.610
0.1946 0.984 0.716
0.2 0.985 0.721
0.25 0.987 0.767

38
Brood Microhabitat
Selection
80 5
* ***
4
60
Percent Habitat

Density (dm)
*** 3
40 *
2

20 ***
1

0 0
CS WS IF OF BG VOR

B ro o d L o ca tio n
*** denotes p < 0.001
R a n d o m L o c a tio n
T-test: * denotes p < 0.005

Conclusions
„ Interseeding CRP provides reproductive
benefits
„ Hens select interseeded CRP for nesting
„ Nest survival tends to be higher in
interseeded areas

„ Hens with broods tend to prefer


interseeded CRP

„ Hens with broods selected areas with high


forb content

39
Stanton County Focus Area Pheasant Index
Survey Information
Scott Wessel
Wildlife Biologist, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission

Spring Rooster Crowing Counts 1, 2

Year Total Crows Crows/Stop


2007 n/a n/a
2006 630 21.0
2005 653 21.8
2004 624 20.8
2003 389 12.9
2002 374 12.5
1 Habitat work began in the fall of 2002.
2 Route conducted in April with 2 minute stops.

August Roadside Brood Survey 1, 2

Year # of # of Brood Young/ Miles of


broods young Size mile Route
2007 3 32 162 5.06 5.4 30
2006 15 63 4.2 2.1 30

2005 36 193 5.36 6.43 30

2004 49 278 5.67 5.56 50

2003 37 255 6.89 4.25 60

2002 7 45 6.42 0.75 60


1 Habitat work began in the fall of 2002.
2 Route run on days with a heavy dew. Miles traveled varies due to road conditions and staffing.
3 Includes 1 prairie chicken brood with 8 chicks.

40
41
42
Grassland bird response to disking/interseeding of
legumes in Conservation Reserve Program lands
in Northeast Nebraska
Lucas Negus and Craig A. Davis
Oklahoma State University

Grassland bird populations are declining faster than any other group of birds. These declines have
been attributed to the loss of prairie habitat. With the tremendous losses of native prairie throughout
the Midwest, surrogate grasslands such as CRP have become increasingly more important to grass-
land wildlife. While game birds are most commonly thought of as being the main beneficiaries, non-
game grassland songbirds also benefit from CRP. Recently, several studies have attributed popula-
tion increases, or at least stable trends, in specific grassland bird species to CRP.

In May of 2002, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Pheasants Forever, Inc. initiated a
program to curb declining ring-necked pheasant populations in the state. The program, entitled
“Focus on Pheasants,” placed an emphasis on creating nesting and brood-rearing habitat in the ag-
ing CRP fields by disking and interseeding legumes. Although improving pheasant habitat is the pri-
mary objective, grassland birds will likely benefit from the habitat manipulations as well. These habi-
tat upgrades provide an excellent opportunity to evaluate grassland bird population response to this
management practice. Funding for this study was provided through the Nebraska State Wildlife
Grant program. State Wildlife Grants provide funding for management practices and research that
benefit at-risk wildlife species.

Objectives:
• To compare grassland bird richness and abundance in CRP fields disked/interseeded to CRP
fields unmanaged.
• To compare grassland bird nest productivity in CRP fields disked/interseeded to CRP fields un-
managed.
• To evaluate differences in vegetation structure, composition, and cover between CRP fields
disked/interseeded and CRP fields unmanaged.

Beginning in May 2004, grassland bird abundance and nest productivity were sampled in 16 fields
throughout the Stanton County focus area. Eight fields were disked and interseeded and served as
experimental fields. Eight fields in which no disking and interseeding was performed serve as control

43
Results - 2004:
Grassland bird species observed during surveys include eastern and western meadowlarks, grass-
hopper sparrows, Henslow’s sparrows, Dickcissels, sedge wrens, bobolinks, field sparrows, com-
mon yellowthroats, brown-headed cowbirds, and northern harriers. Other bird species using the
CRP include redwing blackbirds, barn swallows, rough-winged swallows, eastern kingbirds, mal-
lards, blue-winged teal, ring-necked pheasants, northern bobwhite, and mourning doves.

Bird surveys from the 2004 field season indicate some important differences. Several grassland
bird species, including Dickcissels and grasshopper sparrows, were more abundant in experimental
fields than control fields. Dickcissels were 3 times more abundant in experimental fields. Experi-
mental fields had a species richness of 24, compared to a richness of 18 in control fields. Several
differences between treatments were also seen in nesting behavior. Of 100 nests found throughout
the field season, 88 were in experimental fields. Additionally, nest densities were 3 times greater in
experimental fields. Nest success was 37-40% in both experimental and control fields.

Differences in vegetation characteristics were also observed. The control field vegetation was com-
posed of only 1.5% forbs and 2% bare ground. Conversely, experimental fields were composed of
25% forbs and 25% bare ground. Litter (dead material in contact with the ground) was two times deeper in
control fields than experimental. Finally, vegetation height was relatively uniform in control fields,
ranging from 34 to 71 cm throughout the summer. Vegetation height in experimental fields varied
greatly, from 24 to 90 cm, indicating a diversity of heights throughout the field.

Bird surveys and nest searches resumed in May of this summer, with some slight modifications.
Nest searches have been intensified to achieve the goal of finding 200 nests. Following this sum-
mers field season, results from the two field seasons will be compiled, analyzed, interpreted, and
reported.

44
5
Overall Abundance 1.75
Diversity
*
4
1.5 *
1.25
3
1

2 0.75

0.5
1
0.25

0 0
Treatment Reference Treatment Reference
Species Richness
12
* Ref erence
10 Treatment

8
6

4
2

0
2004 2005

Nest Densities
5
4.5 Reference
4 Treatment

3.5
Nests/Hectare

n = 112 n = 135
3
2.5
2
1.5
1
0.5
0
2004 2005

45
Grassland Bird Conclusions
• Disked/interseeded fields supported higher
abundances and more species than undisked
fields
• Disking/interseeding created vegetation
response that attracted diverse assemblage of
grassland birds
• Nest densities appeared to be higher in
disked/interseeded fields, but no difference in
nest success
• Mature brome stands were still important,
particularly to Henslow’s Sparrows and
Bobolinks

Overall Conclusions
• Planted grasslands are important for wildlife
species
• Mid-contract management is important in
grass dominated, aged CRP fields
• Disking and interseeding legumes is an effective
management technique
• A wide array of wildlife (both game and non-
game) and organisms benefit from
management
• Management is needed in the future to
maintain/enhance the wildlife habitat CRP
fields provide as they progress through the life
of their contract

46
Kansas Mid-Contract Management Practices

Kansas offers Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) participants the option of six mid-contract man-
agement practices. The primary focus is to increase plant diversity, create open spaces and im-
prove habitat cover in well established stands by temporarily reducing the vigor of perennial grass
while improving CRP cover for wildlife.

Kansas is fortunately dominated by native grass cover on CRP acreage. Under normal establish-
ment conditions, the cover on CRP offers the best habitat for upland birds and their broods during
the first year of seeding. The quality of the habitat generally declines in consecutive years until the
tall native perennial grass offers little for upland birds or their broods by the fourth or fifth year.

Selection of the appropriate management practice is a management decision made by the CRP par-
ticipant working in consultation with an NRCS technician, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
(KDWP) and other conservation partners. Practice selection is based upon sound conservation
planning principles that best achieves wildlife habitat improvement.

All of the management activities are made available when the cover is considered established and in
most cases can be performed on more than one occasion but must be performed at a time when the
benefits will outweigh the cost. Consideration to site specific factors such as erosion problems in
fragile areas or high risk areas of noxious weed colonization is required when planning management
practices.

Mid-contract Management Practices work in conjunction with other conservation partners incentive
programs to improve wildlife cover. KDWP, Pheasants Forever (PF) and Quail Unlimited (QU) offer
incentives for legume inter-seeding, CRP Wildlife Upgrades, Upland Bird Habitat Incentive Pro-
grams, Food Plots, and Brood strips. KDWP’s Walk In Hunting Program (WIHA) is also a popular
choice for Kansas CRP participants.

48
KDWP realized the benefits of mid-contract management practices for upland bird nesting and brood
rearing habitat. As such, major CRP upgrade projects have occurred in 3 of 5 administrative re-
gions. Basically these projects provided incentives to CRP contract holders to upgrade their CRP.
Usually a cash incentive was paid on top of the per acre payment for completing the practice. Al-
most all of these efforts were cooperatively funded by KDWP and PF or QU. A combination of strip
disking, interseeding (mostly alfalfa) and burning were offered. Some practices were completed by the
landowners and others by contractors. Several thousand acres were treated in the past few years;
most prior to mid-contract management cost-share being available from USDA.

The following management practices are offered in Kansas:


Practice Available on: Operation Period

Prescribed Burning Most Practices – limited to alter- Feb. 1 – April 15


nating years
Inter-seeding Most Practices - limited to spe- Outside of nesting season
cies not established in original
mix
Light Disking 10 practices for re-enrolled and After dormancy to April 15
new contracts
Brush Management CP10, not applicable on new Outside of nesting season
offers
Managed Grazing CP1, CP2, CP4B, CP4D, CP10, 120 day period from July 16 to
CP18B & C Nov. 12
Managed Haying Same as managed grazing 30 day period from July 16 to
August 15

Examples of strip disking projects from Kansas.

49
50
Mid Contract Management on CRP
Iowa Job Sheet CRP – 1

Narratives Mid-contract Management of CRP

Practice CP1
This practice requires management activities to maintain wildlife benefits of the practice. Manage-
ment activities may occur as early as year four and ending no later than year eight. No more than
one third of the area may be treated in any given year, unless an exception is granted by NRCS or
other Technical Service Provider. For this practice acceptable methods may include one or a combi-
nation of the following: Spraying to suppress existing cover, light disking, or inter-seeding to diversify
the cover. No management activity may occur during the primary nesting season of May 15-
August 1.

Managed haying or grazing (with applicable payment reduction) may be used to reduce duff prior to any
of the management methods described above. Mid-contract management must be conducted on
each contract acre a minimum of one time during the contract period.

Practice CP2
This practice requires management activities to maintain wildlife benefits of the practice. Manage-
ment activities may occur as early as year six and ending no later than year eight. No more than one
third of the area may be treated in any given year, unless an exception is granted by NRCS or other
Technical Service Provider. For this practice acceptable methods may include one or a combination
of the following: Light disking, inter-seeding to diversify the cover or prescribed burning. If prescribed
burning is selected, seedings that include native forbs may benefit from a fall or dormant burn. No
management activity may occur during the primary nesting season of May 15- August 1.

Managed haying or grazing (with applicable payment reduction) may be used to reduce duff prior to
disking or interseeding. Mid-contract management must be conducted on each contract acre a mini-
mum of one time during the contract period.

Practice CP4B and CP4D (Introduced Species)


This practice requires management activities to maintain wildlife benefits of the practice. Manage-
ment activities may occur as early as year six and ending no later than year eight. No more than one
third of the area may be treated in any given year, unless an exception is granted by NRCS or other
Technical Service Provider. For this practice acceptable methods may include one or a combination
of the following: Spraying to suppress existing cover, light disking, or inter-seeding to diversify the
cover. No management activity may occur during the primary nesting season of May 15- Au-
gust 1.

Managed haying or grazing (with applicable payment reduction) may be used to reduce duff prior to
any of the management methods described above. Areas planted to trees or shrubs are not subject
to mid-contract management. Mid-contract management must be conducted on each contract acre
(not planted to trees or shrubs) a minimum of one time during the contract period.

51
Mid Contract Management on CRP
Iowa Job Sheet CRP – 1
~ Continued ~

Practice CP4B and CP4D (Native Species)


This practice requires management activities to maintain wildlife benefits of the practice. Manage-
ment activities may occur as early as year six and ending no later than year eight. No more than
one third of the area may be treated in any given year, unless an exception is granted by NRCS or
other Technical Service Provider. For this practice acceptable methods may include one or a com-
bination of the following: Light disking, inter-seeding to diversify the cover or prescribed burning. If
prescribed burning is selected, seedings that include native forbs may benefit from a fall or dor-
mant burn. No management activity may occur during the primary nesting season of May 15-
August 1.

Managed haying or grazing (with applicable payment reduction) may be used to reduce duff prior to
disking or interseeding. Areas planted to trees or shrubs are not subject to mid-contract manage-
ment. Mid-contract management must be conducted on each contract acre (not planted to trees or
shrubs) a minimum of one time during the contract period.

Practice CP10 (Introduced)


This practice requires management activities to maintain wildlife benefits of the practice. Contract
management will be required twice on every acre during the contract period, once in the years one
through three and again starting as early as year six and no later than year eight. No more than
one third of the area may be treated in any given year, unless an exception is granted by NRCS or
other Technical Service Provider. For this practice acceptable methods may include one or a com-
bination of the following: Spraying to suppress existing cover, light disking, or inter-seeding to di-
versify the cover. No management activity may occur during the primary nesting season of
May 15- August 1.

Managed haying or grazing (with applicable payment reduction) may be used to reduce duff prior to
any of the management methods described above.

Practice CP10 (Native)


This practice requires management activities to maintain wildlife benefits of the practice. Contract
management will be required twice on every acre during the contract period, once in the years one
through three and again starting as early as year six and no later than year eight. No more than
one third of the area may be treated in any given year, unless an exception is granted by NRCS or
other Technical Service Provider. For this practice acceptable methods may include one or a com-
bination of the following: Light disking, inter-seeding to diversify the cover or prescribed burning. If
prescribed burning is selected, seedings that include native forbs may benefit from a fall or dor-
mant burn. No management activity may occur during the primary nesting season of May 15-
August 1.

Managed haying or grazing (with applicable payment reduction) may be used to reduce duff prior to
disking or interseeding.

52
Mid Contract Management on CRP
Iowa Job Sheet CRP – 1
~ Continued ~

Practice CP25 (Contracts Less than 12 years)


This practice requires management activities to maintain wildlife benefits of the practice.
Management activities may occur as early as year six and ending no later than year eight.
No more than one third of the area may be treated in any given year, unless an exception
is granted by NRCS or other Technical Service Provider. For this practice acceptable
method are prescribed burning or light disking. If light disking is used, interseeding with na-
tive forbs is recommended. Seedings that include native forbs may benefit from a fall or
dormant burn. No management activity may occur during the primary nesting season
of May 15- August 1.

Managed haying or grazing (with applicable payment reduction) may be used to reduce duff prior
to disking or interseeding.

Practice CP25 (Contracts Greater than 12 years)


This practice requires management activities to maintain wildlife benefits of the practice. Man-
agement activities will occur twice on every acre during the contract period at mid-contract be-
ginning in year six and ending no later than year eight. The second management activity will
begin in year eleven and end no later than year thirteen. No more than one third of the area
may be treated in any given year, unless an exception is granted by NRCS or other Technical
Service Provider. For this practice acceptable method are prescribed burning or light disking. If
light disking is used, interseeding with native forbs is recommended. Seedings that include na-
tive forbs may benefit from a fall or dormant burn. No management activity may occur dur-
ing the primary nesting season of May 15- August 1.

Managed haying or grazing (with applicable payment reduction) may be used to reduce duff prior
to disking or interseeding.

Name_____________________________

Field(s)____________________

See attached aerial photo for areas to be treated.

Tract______________________

53
Mid contract management on CRP
Iowa Job Sheet CRP – 1
Name_____________________________

Field(s)___________________

See attached aerial photo for areas to be treated.

Tract______________________

Purpose
Mid contract management (MCM) will be conducted on certain Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
General sign up practices. The purpose of MCM is to manage established plant communities in order
to maintain an early successional stage. Management will:
• Increase plant community species and structural diversity.
• Provide wildlife habitat for those species that use early successional stage vegetative habitat.
• Provide habitat for declining species.
• Remove duff and control woody vegetation.

Where does it apply?


MCM is required on general CRP contracts entered into during sign up 26 or subsequent sign ups.
MCM applies to CRP practices CP1, CP2, CP4B, CP4D, CP10 and CP25. MCM will be applied to
every acre at least once during the contract life.

MCM is available for any CRP acres with these CP practices at the 50% cost share rate.

How it helps
Managing plant communities is beneficial if not essential for less mobile animal species. The less mo-
bile the species of wildlife, the more important it is to provide all the life cycle habitat requirements for
multiple species in a small area (songbirds, quail, and pheasants).

MCM will be designed to achieve the desired plant community in density, vertical and horizontal struc-
ture, and plant species diversity needed by the targeted wildlife species.

Methods used will be designed to maintain soil and water quality criteria.

Used alone or in combination with other techniques, mechanical methods (prescribed burning, light
disking, mowing, chemical application, or a combination of the above) can be used to manipulate and
maintain the desired successional habitat stages.

MCM should be used not more than once every three years on the same location in a field.

Options

NRCS Standards and Specifications will be used to apply options. Applying an option may involve
multiple activities. See the applicable Standard for the activities to be completed for the chosen option.

54
Select (check) one of the following options:

□ Light Disking (2-4” deep) of existing stands (four years and older) may be necessary to increase
the amount of open ground and encourage a diverse plant community of annual and per-
ennial plants. Disk between October 1 and April 30. Rotate the disked areas, either
blocks within the field or strips across the field, following the CRP conservation plan. The
disked area should provide no more than 50 percent bare ground leaving at least 50 per-
cent ground cover of residue to prevent soil erosion. Follow NRCS Early Successional
Habitat Management Standard (647).
□ Use Prescribed Burning to remove excess litter, which may reduce the quality of wildlife
habitat. Controlled fire can allow germination of seed bearing annuals, increase plant
species diversity, control unwanted woody cover, and open up the stand for movement of
small animals and birds. Follow the NRCS Prescribed Burning Standard (338). Any
burns must be done according to a Prescribe Burn Plans reviewed by NRCS.
□ Selected Herbicides may manipulate plant succession and improve habitat diversity. Care-
ful planning and care in application are required in the use of chemicals to improve exist-
ing habitat. Selection of products should be based on several factors including product
effectiveness, non-target species impact, toxicological risks, and off-site movement of
chemicals. See the NRCS Pest Management Standard (595) for precautions. Not appli-
cable to practice CP25.
□ Interseeding may be used to enhance existing cover. The addition of introduced legumes
such as alfalfa, ladino or red clovers, or native legumes and forbs such black-eyed
Susan, partridge pea, white or purple prairie clover, tick trefoil, Illinois bundle flower, etc.,
will add diversity and structure to existing cover. Interseeding may be used in conjunction
with any of the above MCM options or used as a stand alone single MCM option. Follow
the

NRCS Conservation Cover Standard (327) for seeding dates and interseeding methods. Inter-
seed forbs at 25-50 percent of pure seeding rate.

No MCM option may be applied during the May 15 to August 1 primary nesting season.

Managed haying or grazing (with 25% payment reduction) may be used to reduce duff prior to light
disking, spraying or interseeding.

Measures must be provided to control noxious weeds and other invasive species.

To protect forbs and legumes that benefit native pollinators and other wildlife and provide insect
food sources for grassland nesting birds, spraying or other control of noxious weeds shall be
done on a “spot” basis.

All habitat manipulations will be planned and managed according to soil capabilities and recom-
mendations for management that will maintain soil loss within tolerable (T) limit.

The practice may be used to promote the conservation of declining species, including, threat-
ened and endangered (plant, wildlife, or aquatic) species.

55
IOWA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
WILDLIFE HABITAT ESTABLISHMENT INVOICE
To: Iowa Department of Natural Resources
From:
(Cooperator/Contractor Name) (Address)

(City) (State) (Zip code)

Social Security or Federal ID Number:


Cooperator’s Name:
Cooperator Number:
Cooperator Farm Location:

This is to certify that the following wildlife habitat practices were established under the Department’s Pheasant &
Quail Restoration Program. All wildlife habitat practices were established in accordance with the specifications pro-
vided by the DNR wildlife biologist.

This form will be used to calculate all costs for which reimbursement/payment is requested. Flat rates for each wild-
life habitat practice are provided below and shall be used to claim costs for any work performed by the Cooperator/
Contractor. “Complete” costs cover all equipment, labor and materials needed to establish the practice.

56
CRP Upgrade Mixtures
These legume mixtures have been designed to use in CRP grass stand
improvements throughout Nebraska. The cost of the mixtures range
from $10 to $20 per acre.

Legume Mixture #1 Legume Mixture #2 Legume Mixture #3


5.0 lbs PLS/acre (26.2 PLS/ft2) 5.0 lbs PLS/acre (25.7 PLS/ft2) 5.0 lbs PLS/acre (26.4 PLS/ft2)

Alfalfa ...............................3.0 Alfalfa .......................... 3.0 Alfalfa ............................ 3.0


Red Clover .......................1.5 Sweet Clover ...............2.0 Red Clover .................... 2.0
Sweet Clover....................0.5

$11.20 per Acre $10.74 per Acre $11.35 per Acre

Legume Mixture #4 Legume Mixture #5 Legume Mixture #6


4.0 lbs PLS/acre 3.61 lbs PLS/acre 3.45 lbs PLS/acre (17.7 PLS/ft2)

Alfalfa ............................. 2.5 Alfalfa .......................... 2.5 Alfalfa ........................... 2.0


Crimson Clover............... 0.5 Sweet Clover ............... 1.0 Red Clover ................... 1.0
Red Clover ..................... 0.5 Black-eyed Susan ..... 0.05 Black-eyed Susan....... 0.05
Black-eyed Susan......... 0.05 Cudweed Sagewort ... 0.01 Illinois Bundleflower...... 0.2
Illinois Bundleflower........ 0.2 Roundhead Lespedeza .... 0.04 Showy Partridgepea ..... 0.2
Lemon Mint................... 0.05 Stiff Goldenrod .......... 0.01
Showy Partridgepea ....... 0.2

$16.45 per Acre $15.73 per Acre $14.42 per Acre

Legume Mixture #7 Legume Mixture #8 Legume Mixture #9


3.45 lbs PLS/acre (20.0 PLS/ft2) 3.86 lbs PLS/acre 2.96 lbs PLS/acre

Alfalfa .............................. 2.0 Alfalfa ............................ 3.0 Alfalfa ............................. 2.0


Red Clover ...................... 0.8 Sweet Clover................. 0.5 Sweet Clover.................. 0.5
Black-eyed Susan ......... 0.05 Black-eyed Susan ....... 0.05 Black-eyed Susan ........ 0.05
Illinois Bundleflower ........ 0.2 Cicer Milkvetch.............. 0.3 Cudweed Sagewort...... 0.01
Lemon Mint ..................... 0.1 Stiff Goldenrod ............ 0.01 Illinois Bundleflower ....... 0.2
Showy Partridgepea........ 0.2 Showy Partridgepea ....... 0.2
White Prairie Clover ........ 0.1

$20.14 per Acre $12.14 per Acre $14.41 per Acre

57
Notes:

________________________
________________________
________________________
________________________
________________________
________________________
________________________
________________________
________________________
________________________
________________________
________________________
________________________
________________________
________________________
________________________
58
This photo is of a 13-year old CRP field that is over 1,000 acres in size and has had no management per-
formed on it during its contract. It was originally established to a mixture of Brome grass and alfalfa and is
now a monoculture of Brome grass that provides minimal wildlife benefits.

The same field was disked and interseeded with legumes to increase the diversity of the grass stand through
the CRP-MAP program. It now has a diversity of cover that provides nesting, brood-rearing and winter cover
for a variety of wildlife including grassland songbirds, pheasants and quail.
A grass stand that has been dominated by smooth bromegrass On April 7, 2004, the grass stand is disked with three passes
and lost its productivity for upland wildlife. An area that was and then interseeded with a legume mixture. A minimum of
excellent wildlife habitat in the past has now naturally moved three passes with a disk was necessary with a mature stand
through succession to a more mature grass stand in need of of bromegrass but still leaves more than 50% residue.
management.

On July 29, 2004, the area now has a wide diversity of plant On May 30, 2005, the area now shows the true value of
species, has an open understory, supports plants that attract performing upgrades on mature grass stand. The area is
insects, and is once again a diverse grassland. The legumes providing excellent nesting and brood-rearing cover for a
that were interseeded into the disked area are already present wide range of wildlife, especially pheasant, quail, water-
and providing brood-rearing habitat for pheasants as well as a fowl and grassland songbirds with 22” of undisturbed
diverse habitat for all types of grassland birds. grass and forb cover.