GRP Conservation Planning Requirements FY 2009

All lands enrolled in GRP must be maintained to open grassland. As a minimum conservation planning will address soil, water, air, plants, animals and human resource concerns. The planning will follow the conservation practice standards found in the NRCS Field Office Technical Guide that achieve a resource management level of conservation for pasture and hayland, or for natural grasslands, as appropriate.

Grazing Lands

As a minimum the following conservation practices will be included in a grazing management plan; Prescribed Grazing (528), Pest Management (595), Nutrient Management (590), and, where needed, Water Facility (614), or Pond (378) or Forage Harvest Management (511).

Prescribed Grazing (528) Planning will provide for adequate rest for forages while meeting the nutritional needs of the livestock. About 21-35 days of rest should be planned, depending on the forage type. Stocking rates will allow proper grazing and meet nutritional needs of livestock. C-Graz will be used to develop grazing management plans.

Forage Harvest Management (511) Cutting and removal of forage for hay will follow this standard. The hay needs and grazing needs should be balanced to meet the livestock needs and producers’ objectives. See additional guidance for wildlife concerns.

Pest Management (595) Undesirable vegetation, insects or other pests can be managed by using Integrated Pest Management, spot treatment, and proper timing of pesticide application. Many of the weeds that are problems in pastures and hayland should be controlled outside of the nesting period of April 1 and July 15. Win-Pst will be used in planning pest management.

Water Facility (614) Watering devices should be developed as needed to facilitate the prescribed grazing practice and, where needed, assist in protecting water resources, and buffer areas from livestock access, improving biodiversity considerations.

Pond (378) Newly constructed or renovated ponds will follow this standard. Ponds should be fenced with heavy use areas in place for livestock access.

Nutrient Management (590) Soil test recommendations should be followed for the particular forages being managed. Soil tests should be done at least every three years. Fertilizing during the nesting season with large trucks could adversely affect the nesting wildlife and should be avoided.

Mowing, Haying, Harvesting Seed

Mowing, haying, spraying, or harvesting seed should not be done on 25 percent of a field between April 1 and July 15. The protected area should be at least 30-feet wide, preferably wider. They will provide nesting habitat for declining species such as bobwhite quail. They should be located adjacent to field borders, fences, riparian areas, or other protected areas. They should not be located near public roads or built-up areas.

For grassland pastures with native grass stands, existing or planned, participants should manage the native grasses to benefit wildlife by protecting at least 25% of the stands (see above).

GRP Conservation Planning Options for Grazing Lands

Forage Harvest Management (511) Quail and other grassland birds may be drawn to nest in hay fields. The following measures can be taken to minimize mortality of nesting adults and fledging juveniles. Some methods will minimize nest destruction by restricting/deferring haying activities.

  • "Directional Mowing" - Unrestricted portions of hayfields and pastures should be mowed or bush hogged from the field center outwards to allow fledging birds and nesting adults to escape to the edge of the field.
  • Fields can be divided into sections and mowed on a rotational basis to provide for some useable habitat during the nesting period.
  • Nesting adults and roosting individuals are less likely to flush from cover during the night; therefore it is recommended to mow during daylight, only.
  • Flushing bars can be mounted on harvesting equipment to decrease bird mortality during mowing activities.
  • In unrestricted portions of hayfield, leave additional transition zones extending from the edge of a field, fence row, or water course, undisturbed during the nesting period of April 1 to July 15. These areas provide alternative adjacent habitat and allow birds additional areas to nest or re-nest (for those that failed to successfully nest in active hayfields).

Pasture and Hay Planting (512) Establish forage species for grazing or mechanical harvest.

  • In unrestricted portions of hayfield, approved small grains, winter annuals and legumes may be inter-seeded. Inter-seeding legumes into warm or cool season grasses used for pasture is encouraged. Conventional tillage is prohibited.
  • Plant native warm-season grasses to benefit both grazing/haying and improve nesting and brood-rearing habitat.

Tree/Shrub Establishment (612) Scattered clumps of shrubs can be planted in field corners, fence rows, field/watercourse edges, and other odd areas to provide loafing and escape cover and additional food sources. These are considered as incidental areas. Tree planting in open grasslands is not allowed.

Critical Area Planting (342) Vegetation will be established on severely eroding areas or other areas requiring extra ordinary means to establish vegetation. Consider using native warm season grasses.

Pest Management (595) Undesirable vegetation, insects and other pest can be managed using some of the following IPM methods (always refer to WinPst for mitigation options):

  • "Spot" treatment is a viable alternative to broadcast application of herbicides and insecticides. Areas of pest infestation are selectively treated in order to maintain forbs, invertebrates, and seeds consumed as food by chicks and adult birds.
  • Apply pesticides at correct times to optimize impacts of the pesticide to the target and reduce adverse impacts to wildlife.
  • In unrestricted haying/grazing areas minimize broadcast herbicide application during nesting period of April 1-July 15 or wherever loss of habitat cover may occur (field corners, fence rows, field/water course edges, etc.)

Wildlife Upland Habitat Management (645) The following actions should increase biodiversity and provide more suitable habitat by increasing edge habitat and important food and cover components for declining grassland bird species, such as bobwhite quail. Some of these actions may also be described in practice guide sheets and standards under other conservation practice names and numbers.

  • Conversions of introduced grasses to native vegetation –Bermuda and tall fescue have been popular choices for grazing and haying in the southeast for many years. Significant improvements in cover, nesting, and feeding habitats can be realized by converting these stands back to native vegetation. Selective herbicides are used to kill introduced grass species, and either native grasses or forbs must be planted or allowed to naturally re-vegetate with native species in the seed bank (applies to Blackbelt Prairie soils).
  • Preserve or encourage existing shrubby and woody cover, tall grasses, annual weed patches, and briar patches, such as blackberries. These areas may be located in odd corners of fields, along fences, around small clumps of trees. Increasing edge habitat and establishing travel corridors between habitats:
  • Transition zones that "feather" habitat changes with different heights and types of cover (from trees to open fields) provide a mixture of foods (such as seeds, insects, berries) and cover (such as nesting, brood-rearing, and escape). Practices that can be planned to serve as transition zones include Field Borders (386). These practices may be planted or allowed to naturally re-vegetate.
  • Fields can be reshaped from square edges to irregular edges and broken down into a number of smaller individual fields from a single large plot by establishing Field Borders (386) around the edges and through fields. These practices may be planted or allowed to naturally re-vegetate.
  • Connect various land uses and desired cover types with travel corridors that can also provide food and escape cover. Practices that can be planned to serve as travel corridors include Field Borders (386) Hedgerows Planting (422).

Natural Grasslands

Natural means a native or an introduced species that is adapted to the ecological site and can perpetuate itself in the community without cultural treatment. For the purposes of GRP natural does not include noxious weeds. In Alabama these natural grasslands might occur in pineland savannahs or on alkaline caps of certain soils in MLRA 135.

Natural grasslands may be used for grazing or for wildlife purposes. If they are used for grazing lands then a prescribed grazing management plan will be followed while adhering to previously mentioned restrictions. If they are used for wildlife then the Wildlife Upland Habitat Management (645) standard will be followed and adhering to the appropriate restrictions. Consult with the NRCS Grazing Lands specialist or Wildlife Biologist before developing these conservation plans.

Incidental Lands

Incidental lands, in conjunction with eligible land may also be considered for enrollment for efficient administration of an easement or contract. The incidental lands may not meet the eligibility requirements, but may contribute to grassland functions and values, or increase efficiencies in surveying, management or reduce irregular boundaries. Ponds or small portions of ponds may be included for the purpose of livestock water. Typically, incidental lands will not exceed 10 per cent of the offer.