ISSUE 15 September 13, 2007
CONSERVATION RESERVE PROGRAM
With the crop prices at high levels and demand for more crop land acres
increasing producers are wondering if they should bring back into production
some of the acres that are presently in the conservation reserve program (CRP).
Reduction of soil erosion of CRP land has been documented and usually there has
been an increase of soil organic matter in fields in the conservation program.
Within the first few years after tilling CRP grasslands, organic matter will
decrease rapidly. Producers bringing CRP acres back into production should
minimize soil erosion and protect the improved soil characteristics which were
gained during the period the parcel was in CRP.
Some general recommendations:
Bring back into production only land that is not highly erodible. Some
parcels are more suitable for crop production than others. Consider leaving
sensitive areas around stream, ponds, and wetlands in CRP or designate them as
grazing or haying land.
Before bringing a piece back into cultivation evaluate the present weed
species and where they are as they may influence cropping plans. It is
important to control perennial weed species.
Consider the growth of the plants in the current CRP field. If there is a
lot of residue on the land, grazing, haying, or mowing will remove excess
plant material. After the plants start to re-grow a burndown herbicide can be
used to kill the vegetation.
When mowing use a shredder which will cut up and distribute the residue.
Other pieces of machinery may concentrate residue.
If there is sweetclover growing in CRP acres and hay is produced there is
risk that if the hay becomes moldy, the sweetclover may produce dicumerol.
Dicumerol can cause abortions and bleeding in cows if toxic doses are
Fall application of a glyphosate containing herbicide may provide better
burndown than spring application. It is important to have complete coverage
when the grass is actively growing.
Burning with fire is not recommended as this will not kill the grass and
will not reduce the mat of residue near the soil surface.
To maintain some cover and residue benefits (less erosion) no till may be
a choice. Row cleaners could be used to move residue from the rows.
If tillage is used large amounts of partially incorporated residue may
cause problems during the spring field operations and the establishment of the
newly seeded crop.
Make sure soil samples are taken and fertilizer applied according to the
In summary, it will take planning and time to get a parcel currently in CRP
back into agricultural production.
Extension Agronomist Broadleaf Crops