Thursday, June 28, 2012

Manage Cropland for Fish and Wildlife

Everything that’s done on the land affects wildlife, either positively or negatively. That’s true for cropland, where habitat quality is usually considered secondary to profitable cropping systems.
Profitable cropping systems can support wildlife, and produce cleaner water and more productive soil, too. Consider making a conservation plan that includes wildlife habitat in each decision
being made.
Follow four key thoughts:

Control soil erosion. While soil conservation is basic to all farming systems, if you think about it, covering the soil is as basic for wildlife habitat as it is to soil protection. To have habitat, wildlife must have food and cover, and that’s what basic soil conservation practices offer.
Grassed waterways, grassed field borders, grass or riparian filter strips, terraces, crop rotations, field and farmstead windbreaks-- all these basic practices offer cover and some food to wildlife.
In offering soil protection, they also contribute to better water quality.

Use conservation tillage. Leaving plant residues on the soil surface after harvest, and through the next year’s crop season as well, protects the soil and offers cover in the winter for many birds and small mammals.
No-till farming, where the soil is disturbed little for planting or through the crop season, helps nesting birds. An Iowa study shows 9 times the amount of bird nests in a no-till field compared to plowed fields. Narrow row soybeans are likewise helpful to quail because there is no disturbance during nesting season.

Time operations for wildlife. Delaying any mowing of waterways, field borders, roadsides, or hayfields until after nesting season is paramount to grassland bird survival. There are also small but important operations changes that can be made, such as mowing a field from the center to the edge, to allow wildlife to escape from the mower into adjoining fields. And you can add a flush bar to your mower to
get birds out of the way of the blade.

Maximize odd areas. Make full use of non-farmed areas alongside crop fields by establishing habitat used by the wildlife you want to see on your farm.

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