Managing Farmlands for Wildlife
One of the most overlooked areas for enhancing wildlife habitat through farmland management for wildlife and wildlife habitat. Cropland, cultivated grounds, especially those planted with grain sorghum, corn, or wheat can be very beneficial wildlife, especially seed-eating birds such as bobwhite quail and mourning dove if managed in such a way to satisfy their needs. Many game and non-game birds can thrive in and around farmed properties where acreage is relatively small, irregular in shape, and is broken up by fallow fields.
Fallow fields and other areas, such as fence rows, borrow ditches, and field borders that break up large farmed blocks are extremely important to making the land suitable to quail and other grassland birds. Fallow areas must consist of native vegetation, such as perennial bunch grasses, seed-producing forbs, and a variety of native brush species. Fallow areas planted or seeded with exotic grasses, such as bermudagrass offer no value to wildlife, including white-tailed deer. Many wildlife habitat management practices can be implemented that will make farmed land much more wildlife friendly to animals area.
Cost Share Programs for Wildlife Management
Cost share assistance for wildlife management is available to private landowners through many state and federal programs designed to increase quality habitat for wildlife. The USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), and many state’s landowner incentive program are able to help landowners pay for establishing filter strips, riparian buffers, and grass waterways. If you are interested in farmland management know that there are people out there that can help.
Before starting a management program designed for increase wildlife habitat, first take inventory of what you have. What plant communities are on your property now and are they of value? The four main types of farmland habitat are cropland, grassland and pasture, woodlands, and idle or fallow areas. How many acres do you have of each and how can these cover types be managed to increase wildlife populations, improve habitat. Like anything, proper farmland management for wildlife means knowing what you have to work with before moving forward. Look and plan first, then act.
Farmland Management Practices
1. Leaving a few rows on the outer edge of fields un-harvested.
2. Avoid treating field borders and the outer few rows with chemicals. Leave these areas grassy, weedy and brushy to promote wildlife.
3. Reduce field size by leaving 20 to 40 feet wide fallow strips throughout and around. This will increase crop pollination by insects too.
4. Allow a few fields to lay fallow one to three years to provide good brooding habitat for grassland nesting and seed-eating birds.
5. Establish native grasses, forbs, and brush in erodable areas, field borders and along waterways. This serves and nesting, loafing and travel areas for a variety of wildlife.
Wildlife management can be costly, so it is up to each landowner to decide what the value of wildlife is to them. Is having stable populations of animals important? Do you want better whitetail deer hunting or dove hunting? Does it matter if there are rabbits or quail in your area? How much farmland are you willing to not plant, or how much money can you invest in planting native grasses back into an area? These are not always easy questions to answer.