Focus on your land's environmental benefit index (EBI) if you want to enroll land into the Conservation Reserve Program, advises Matt Morlock, farm bill biologist with Pheasants Forever.
"Whether your land gets accepted or not is based on the land's EBI score. The higher the score, the better your chances are of getting in," says Morlock, who aids landowners in signing up for conservation programs.
In South Dakota, he says there is only one way to improve an EBI score on existing acres.
"What you choose to plant for cover is the only way to improve a score in South Dakota," Morlock says.
With about 6.5 million acres schedule to expire Sept. 30, Morlock expects a lot of competition during this general enrollment as many landowners to take advantage of this sign up to re-enroll.
"Each year a point threshold is implemented but not released. Although all existing CRP acres should qualify, if you only have a 10 point cover, don't expect it to have a good chance of being re-accepted into the program," Morlock says.
Just like the signup in 2011 there is a focus to enroll diverse seed plantings due to the decline in bee population's nationwide.
"There is a push for diverse, bee pollinator plantings on CRP land to help encourage bee populations," says Morlock, who developed a brochure which explains how landowners can increase their land's EBI score.
He encourages landowners to focus on CP 25 -- a conservation practice which includes planting eight species of native grasses and seven species of native forbs/wildflowers.
"The key is planting the most diverse seed mix," Morlock said.
When native forbs are added to the seed mixture, many landowners become concerned about weed control, says Jason Tronbak, conservation specialist with Millborn Seeds, Brookings, S.D.
"The question I've been getting lately is, 'how can I control weeds if I add wildflowers to the mix?'" says Tronbak, who helps landowners by developing customized seed mixes to meet CP 25 requirements. "Fortunately, we are able to develop herbicide tolerant mixes that meet CP 25 specifications."
He recommends using Plateau, a pre-emergent herbicide, and Milestone, a post-emergent herbicide designed to primarily to control thistles and other broadleaf weeds.
To learn more, contact Tronbak at [email protected] or 888-498-7333.
Source: Millborn Seeds