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“Songbirds are not that successful at raising young, especially in these highly disturbed environments, but the nest survival that we saw in the no-till fields was fairly similar to what you could expect in a roadside ditch or alongside a stream.” Kelly VanBeek, wildlife biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Program

Kelly VanBeek spent two years traversing the rows of 12 no-till soybean fields in east-central Illinois, flushing out and counting grassland birds. She wanted to analyze how many nests she found in no-till fields compared to conventionally tilled fields in the same area. 

VanBeek, who’s a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Program, discovered no-till provides big benefits for birds, giving them a 10% greater chance of nest success compared to tilled fields. Crop residue, cover crops and more plant material in general provide better cover and nesting conditions for grassland birds. 

In this episode of the No-Till Farmer Influencers & Innovators podcast, Frank Lessiter gets into the weeds with VanBeek about which no-till fields provide the best habitats for songbirds, what cover crops are most hospitable to birds and finding a balance between productivity and conservation on farmland.

P.S. There’s lots more great no-till stories and history in Frank Lessiter’s new book, From Maverick to Mainstream: A History of No-Till Farming. Check it out here.

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