Managing for wildlife as well as crops

SoilConserve-Windsor_Cox_Pi.jpg
SoilConserve-Windsor_Cox_Pi.jpg

Randy Windsor and Jim Cox have combined their interests as tenant and owner, respectively, to develop grass strips that provide cover for quail and other wildlife while covering land that rarely produces grain income, except in very wet years.

When Jim Cox looked at the quarter-section near Peabody inherited by his wife, Marilyn, from her father, Lawrence Eberle, he decided to manage it not only for crop productivity but also for wildlife productivity.

That has led him to being the recipient of the Grass Buffer Award from the Marion County Soil Conservation District for 14.2 acres of Conservation Reserve Program quail field that borders on the land.

He and his tenant, Randy Windsor, seeded a native grass mixture of big bluestem, sideoats grama, indiangrass, switchgrass and little bluestem, along with forbes and legumes, in 2005.

Windsor said the average 30-foot-wide strips, predominantly along old established hedgerows and in odd-shaped areas, have made farming the Cox land easier and more productive.

He said turn-arounds with machinery are done more easily, plus he isn?t wasting inputs of fertilizer and pesticides next to hedge trees where the soil is less productive, and more drained of moisture.

?Crops never do well there unless it?s a really wet year,? he said.

University research in several states shows that tree rows enhance moisture supply further into the field, so he still has the benefit they supply for yields.

?It?s saving me money,? he said.

Windsor said the new grass and forbes next to the hedgerows benefits game birds by providing seed to eat and cover to escape predators.

?This is designed for wildlife, but I?m seeing benefits, too,? he said. ?They?ve done this on several places I farm. Some of it?s rough ground anyway.?

Windsor said it might benefit Cox financially to lease the ground for hunting.

But Cox said he also may begin doing some hunting himself with retirement.

?In the last couple of years, I?ve seen a lot of improvement in the birds. It?s really helped the pheasants and quail.?

Cox said he believes in the benefits of conservation programs and will continue to terrace the farm.

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