farm at sunset - rules for maintaining your crp land - conservation reserve project

Rules for Maintaining Your CRP Acres

Establishing your Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) project on your eligible farmland is the first step in taking advantage of the extensive benefits associated with the program. There are a number of eligibility requirements you and your land must meet in order to participate in CRP, but once the initial phase of planting and growing has passed, you may be curious as to what your responsibilities are as far as maintaining your CRP land.

While the rules for maintaining your land tend to change over time and depend upon the terms of each individual CRP contract, there are several mid-contract management (MCM) practices and guidelines per the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) you will need to implement while you are enrolled in CRP. These practices, which can be cost-shared up to 50% by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), help to ensure your farmland is mimicking natural habitat as effectively as possible, allowing your crops and the diverse species inhabiting your land to thrive.

MCM practices are crucial in maintaining your CRP land, to promote growth and stability for less mobile animal species and increase plant and structural diversity. Some examples of these practices include:

Prescribed Burning

In order to prevent woody encroachment and reduce buildup of dead material on CRP land, which can be detrimental to grass establishments, prescribed burning may be implemented. A Prescribed Burn Plan must be established, containing technical specifications for this controlled fire process. Prescribed burning can also expand the biodiversity of your plant species and increase germination.


While CRP practices usually promote the reduction of pesticides and herbicides used in farming, some herbicides can be used via MCM to bolster biodiversity and shape the succession of plant species grown. Per the recommendations of the NRCS, herbicides should only be applied to one-third of a field at a time, following all product-label guidelines and federal, state, and local regulations.


Similar to herbicide spraying, disking should be practiced on one-third of a field at one time. Disking can be done on CRP land over three years old, at a depth of two to four inches, on areas of land no more than 75 feet wide. Additionally, disking should only leave 50% bare ground, allowing the other 50% ground cover of residue to remain to inhibit soil erosion. This practice is important for expanding the amount of open ground and boosting the diversity of annual and perennial plants on your land.


By introducing additional varieties of seeds to your cover, including legumes like alfalfa and forbs like black-eyed Susans or partridge pea, you can enhance the existing ground cover, providing added structure and diversity. However, it is important to keep in mind that interseeding can only occur after the existing cover has been weakened through one of the previous MCM practices mentioned, such as disking or herbicide.

The establishment of MCM activities on your land can be somewhat of a complicated endeavor, as most of these practices must take place within specific time periods. Although these maintenance projects do not need to be applied to the land every year, typically they must be completed prior to the seventh year of a 10-year contract and prior to the 10th year of a 15-year contract. Additionally, these practices are required to be scheduled outside of the primary nesting season, which varies, depending on your state.

With so many rules, regulations, and timelines to be mindful of, FDCE understands the maintenance of your CRP land can be a confusing undertaking. To lessen the burden, FDCE can help you navigate these MCM practices so you can focus on what’s most important: cultivating a sustainable, productive farmland that reaps the copious benefits of the CRP program. Contact FDCE for more information on implementing MCM practices and making the best possible use out of your land.