The only thing pulling a plow through former Conservation Reserve Program acres accomplishes is erasing more than a decade of benefits, say no-tillers who have transitioned from CRP to no-till crop production.
More than 70% of CRP acres are either planted to grass or had existing grass cover, which usually means lots of roots and a well-formed sod cover.
“If you turn over sod, you lose that soil quality and structure that has been built up over the last 10 to 15 years,” says Michael Kucera, Nebraska State Resource Conservationist. “Those benefits will go up in smoke quickly and you’ll be right back where you started.”
According to the USDA, there are currently more than 33.5 million acres enrolled in CRP.
With nearly 4.5 million acres worth of CRP contracts slated to expire by the end of 2009 and more than 22.5 million acres of contracts set to expire by fall 2014, there will be a lot of landowners considering putting those acres back into crop production, and trying to determine how to do that.
“We’re encouraging people in our area to use no-till when coming out of switchgrass hay production or CRP,” Kucera says. “With CRP, you’ve essentially taken the acres through the transition phases of no-till.
“If you till CRP, you’re back to square one and have to go back through those phases again.”
Kucera recently transitioned a 20-acre switchgrass hay field back to no-till crop production. He maintained the field on his family’s farm near…