Done correctly, the Conservation Reserve Program can be a great way to restore health to marginal land while still earning a profit. In order to reap the program’s benefits, however, you’ll need to successfully establish the native vegetation for your selected Conservation Practice (CP) This is where things can get difficult.
Though establishing CRP bears some initial similarities to planting crops, it also has many key differences. Additionally, there are rules of the program that must be strictly followed. If you’re not familiar with CRP, it’s easy to make costly mistakes.
As seasoned CRP professionals, we’ve seen just about every misstep a contract holder can make when establishing CRP. Here are a few of the more common ones.
Poor Seed Selection
Quality seed selection is critical piece of CRP establishment. Even if you do everything else correctly, poor CRP seed can ruin your establishment. The type of seed mix you purchase will be determined by the CP that you enroll in. For example, people enrolled in CP-2 will purchase seed mixes consisting of native grasses and forbs.
But before you go out and purchase Pheasants Forever CRP seed or any other CRP seed, it’s important to understand what makes a good CRP mix. Species diversity is important and required for many conservation practices. FDCE knows all the CRP rules and has put together custom mixes that meet NRCS specifications while taking price and quality into consideration.
Using the Wrong Equipment
CRP seed can’t be planted with traditional farming equipment. This is because the seeds are different sizes than traditional crop seeds, and they need to be planted at different depths. If you try to use regular farming equipment, your machinery will likely become clogged. Even if you do manage to plant the seed, it will likely be planted too deeply.
This will likely prevent it from germinating. Since it usually takes more than a year for CRP vegetation to start showing, you might not even realize there’s a problem for an entire planting season.
Improper Weed Control
Most CRP seed mixes are not tolerant to herbicide options once they germinate. This means you’ll be dealing with more weeds. If you don’t take care of weeds, they may prevent your CRP seed from germinating and growing.
In order to control weeds, you’ll first need to properly prepare your CRP land. In some cases, you may implement a burn plan to remove remaining crop residue and weeds. Additionally, you’ll need to create a pre-plant herbicide plan. The specifics of this plan, including what herbicide you use and when you apply it, will depend on what vegetation/weeds are on your land.
After the CRP seed has been planted, further mowing will be needed, especially in the first 2 years of establishment. Once the native vegetation has successfully established, occasional spot spraying or mowing may be required to keep weeds in check.
Cost-share reimbursement is a valuable component to the CRP program, as it covers a notable percentage of establishment costs. However, in order to receive cost-share reimbursement, contract holders must properly document their expenses. Many first-time CRP participants are surprised to discover that this is one of the most difficult parts of the program.
Every expense must be itemized and placed in the proper component codes. Some expenses have a certain percentage of their costs covered, while others have a certain capped amount that is covered. Failure to properly document and organize everything will likely result in your cost-share reimbursement being less than you are potentially allowed.
A Simpler Way to Establish CRP
At FDCE, we take the hard work out of joining the Conservation Reserve Program. We offer full-service solutions to those interested in joining CRP. What does that mean? It means we handle the establishment process from start to finish. We have the tools and industry experience needed to purchase quality seed, establish it, create and implement an herbicide plan, and correctly document everything so that you get your maximum reimbursement as fast as possible.
Whether you’re establishing pollinator habitat or native grasses and forbs, we can help you avoid the common mistakes people make when establishing CRP. Contact us today to get started!