We were contacted this year and asked to do custom farm work which consisted of strip disking CRP. I had been seeing farmers disk strips in CRP ground, but I never understood why it was being done. CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) is a program, that if available, a farmer can enroll their ground into. The farmer will no longer be able to grow a crop on this ground for as long as the ground is enrolled in the program which can be 10-15 years, but during this time they will receive an annual payment. The purpose of the CRP program is to plant vegetation to increase habitat for wildlife, establish cover to help prevent soil erosion and improve water quality.
I had to do some reading up on why we were being asked to do the strip disking because it seemed to me that we were defeating the purpose of CRP. CRP’s main purpose is habitat for wildlife, prevent erosion, and filtering the water. Disking up the vegetation, that was already there for the reasons listed above, seemed to be defeating the purpose of the CRP.
What I found in my reading was that there are reasons for what they are doing, it may or may not make sense to some, but without trial and error, you won’t ever know the outcome. They have several reasons why they believe we should disrupt the vegetation that is currently growing. One of their beliefs is that without disruption, the vegetation will continue to increase causing overgrowth of the ground, therefore, creating a decrease in wildlife habitat. By disking the ground it is reducing plant residue and opening up ground space for birds such as pheasants, turkeys and quail to nest and allows mobility for their chicks along with increasing insects for nutrition for the birds.
Above are the short explanations as to why, but I have to tell you it was hard from my point of view to see the benefits. When I pulled into the CRP field I saw a beautiful field full of vegetation. From my perspective, there were areas of tall, lush vegetation which were perfect for deer, birds, and wildlife to reside in, but there were also plenty of open areas of grass that seemed viable for the raising of chicks. I felt like I was disrupting this beautiful crop that many wildlife called home, I felt like I was doing more damage than I was actually helping. Another concern I had while disking was the fact that we were opening the ground up for weeds to take root in. Weeds are a nuisance to farmers and we are finding that some weeds are becoming extremely hard to get rid of. By opening up the ground and allowing these weeds to grow and seed, are we only creating more of an issue for farmers in the future?
In the end, we did as we were asked and we disked the strips into the CRP. I am sure over time we will discover if these doings are really helpful or more harmful, but as I said before we can only learn through trial and error.