Iowa landowners with marginal cropland are encouraged to seed now native warm-season grasses. Conservationists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) believe this will benefit the northern bobwhite quail and other wildlife. Those who own land adjacent to trees, brush, and pasture are also encouraged.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) grants funding. NRCS has ~$1.2 million available to landowners in 35 southern Iowa counties to implement quail habit-improving practices. These include conservation cover, brush management, upland wildlife habitat management, early successional habitat management, and tree and shrub establishment.
NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Programs in Iowa, Sam Adams, says that landowners can apply at their local NRCS office for EQIP conservation practice funding. The first cutoff to apply for Iowa NRCS programs for fiscal year 2024 is Nov. 3.
Northern bobwhite quail habitat has decreased by 30 million acres nationwide due to a rise in cattle grazing non-native forage. Quail populations have decreased by 80 percent the past 60 years.
Darrell Geib, Area Resource Conservationist for NRCS in Atlantic, says it is important for landowners to sign up early this year. “We want to give our conservation planners time to work with landowners on habitat development this fall,” he said. “Areas adjacent to CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) ground and old pastures will be prime locations for these practices.”
To help reconnect cattle and quail, NRCS is working with producers to manage for native warm-season grasses that create productive and palatable grazing options for livestock while benefitting quail and other wildlife species. Common native warm-season grasses include switchgrass, big bluestem, eastern gamagrass, and Indiangrass.
In addition to improving soil and water quality, warm-season grasses can boost livestock productivity and provide habitat for pollinators.