Every first-year Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) participant wants to establish a successful stand. But for many new CRP enrollees, it can be a challenge. Because many CRP projects require establishing native species, the establishment process often differs from traditional crop planting.
But with the proper knowledge and preparation, you can ensure the best chance of success. Here, we will describe the best methods and tips for a productive first year of your CRP project.
Choose a high-quality seed mix
First and foremost, a successful first year requires a high-quality mix of seeds. A quality seed mix should include diverse species native to your region. Because each Conservation Practice (CP) has different requirements, the mix also needs to be appropriate for the specific CP you are enrolled in.
To avoid noxious weeds like Palmer amaranth from infiltrating your land, your seed mix must be tested for weeds, germination, purity and a seed tag must be provided for each species in your mix. In addition, seeds that are processed using methods like scarification and advanced seed cleaning typically germinate quicker. This results in faster growth and a better stand.
Prepare your field for seeding
Thorough seedbed preparation is necessary in order to achieve the best possible results. To prepare your field before you begin seeding, you will typically need to select and apply an herbicide. This will help prevent early weed competition on your CRP acres. However, some herbicides are restricted for use on CRP land, so it’s critical that you choose an herbicide that is acceptable for your project.
Mowing is another important step in the preparation process, as it allows the sun to properly penetrate the soil. It also helps to prevent weeds from going to seed. Prescribed burning can even be used to eliminate previous crops and weeds. Wiping out weeds and other competition from your land is critical in order for your CRP seeds to thrive.
Plant your seeds using proper equipment
Once your land has been carefully prepared, it’s time to begin the seeding process. Using the proper seeding equipment for this step is critical.
Most native seed planting requires specific equipment that is calibrated appropriately for its seeding. The correct equipment will ensure that your seeds are planted properly and consistently for the best chance of germination and growth. If your seed is planted using the wrong type of equipment, or the wrong equipment settings, it can lead to a failed establishment.
Keep up with establishment maintenance
After your seeds have been planted, it takes some time for you to see actual growth. This can be the most challenging part of the first year as you wait to see your hard work pay off. At this stage, while you wait to see growth, you should perform establishment maintenance on your CRP acres to further increase the chances of a successful stand.
Strategic mowing, particularly for warm-season grasses, should be performed about 2 to 3 times in the first year. When plants and weeds are between 2.5 to 3 feet tall, they should be mowed down to 12 inches, but no shorter. This ensures not only that your soil and plants receives the proper amount of sunlight, but also prevents clippings and debris from smothering your seeds and preventing growth.
Reach out to a CRP professional
If you’re new to CRP and want to optimize your first year of growth, reach out to an experienced professional. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific practice and region, and even help with establishment.
Our sister company, FDCE, has been helping CRP participants with the enrollment and establishment process for almost 20 years. Their services, along with our high-quality seed mixes at All Native Seed, can get your CRP project started right. Want to learn more? Contact us at All Native Seed today!