Selecting the right seed mix for CRP can be daunting. After all, you can’t plant just any seed. Only mixes Compliant with the NRCS can be used in the program. The mixes available to a particular contract holder vary depending on the conservation practice (CP) that they’re enrolled in.
Even within the same CP, however, there are a variety of seed mixes that may qualify. What are the differences between these seeds, and why is it important that you choose the right type?
Much of it comes down to where you’re located and where the seed originates from.
The Importance of Seed Origin and Ecotype
Modern farming can cause a lot of damage to soil for a number of reasons. One primary source of damage is the repeated planting of the same crop year after year. This drains the soil of its nutrients. Meanwhile, the constant harvesting and planting breaks down and exposes the soil, increasing erosion potential.
To combat this, programs like CRP have farmers and landowners take land out of active production and establish perennial vegetation in place of traditional crops. In order for this vegetation to properly protect and restore health to the soil, however, it should be native to the area where it’s being planted.
Native plants have what’s called a local ecotype. That means the plant has genetically evolved and adapted over very long periods of time to the soil and climate conditions of a particular area.
Local ecotype plants have evolved to thrive on your land. In the same way, your land has adapted to feeding and nurturing these types of plants. It’s a symbiotic relationship, with each side helping to sustain the other.
Much of the land now used for farming was originally home to these plants for millennia.
That’s why native plants benefit the local ecosystem well beyond soil health. In the same way plants have adapted to local soil and climate, local wildlife has adapted to thrive on native vegetation. Whether it’s food sources for pollinators or shelter for ducks and pheasants, local plants are vital to their survival as well.
However, it’s not enough to simply have the right family or even genus of plant. The seed being used needs to match the specific species and variety that’s local to your geographical region. Otherwise, unforeseen consequences can occur.
For example, a number of gardeners and farmers have tried to establish milkweed over the past decade to help monarch butterflies. The most prevalent milkweed available for purchase is called asclepias curassavica, which is native to the tropics.
When planted in northern territories, it lasts well into winter. This has led to the unintentional deaths of countless monarch butterflies, as it causes them to migrate too late in the year.
Choosing the Best Seed Mixes
At All Native Seed, it’s our goal to make CRP seed purchasing as simple and straightforward as possible. Our NRCS Compliant CRP mixes are conveniently broken down by state and CP, so you know you’re choosing a qualified seed mix.
These seed mixes have been developed and tested first-hand across 350,000+ acres of CRP establishment to deliver the highest germination rates possible. Additionally, we can provide customers with seed mixes developed by NRCS specifically for your project.
The best mix for your situation can depend on the condition of your soil, your particular location within your state, and your general goals for CRP establishment. If you have any questions or need further guidance, we’re here to help. Click here to contact us directly.