Conservationists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are encouraging Iowa landowners with marginal cropland or land adjacent to trees, brush and pasture to seed down native warm-season grasses to benefit the northern bobwhite quail and other wildlife.
DES MOINES, IA, Sept. 18, 2023 — Conservationists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are encouraging Iowa landowners with marginal cropland or land adjacent to trees, brush and pasture to seed down native warm-season grasses to benefit the northern bobwhite quail and other wildlife.
Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), NRCS has about $1.2 million available to landowners in 35 southern Iowa counties to implement quail habit-improving practices, such as conservation cover, brush management, upland wildlife habitat management, early successional habitat management, and tree and shrub establishment.
Sam Adams, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Programs in Iowa, says landowners can apply any time for EQIP conservation practice funding at their local NRCS office. 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 like fescue and advanced agricultural equipment that leaves fewer weeds and brush. 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.
USDA is an equal opportunity employer, provider and lender.