Haying CRP ground a good option after contract expiration

May 1, 2009
by WLJ
Haying CRP ground a good option after contract expiration

Producers and landowners who have Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts expiring have several options if they will not be extending or renewing the contract. One of the options is to use established cover for hay, said Walt Fick, K-State Research and Extension range and pasture management specialist.

“Land enrolled in CRP is generally highly erodible. Maintaining these acres with a perennial grass cover will reduce erosion, improve water quality, enhance wildlife, and reduce sedimentation,” Fick said. Management decisions related to hay production include fertilization, burning, and time of cutting.

“Most CRP in Kansas was seeded to warm-season native grasses. Although fertilization with nitrogen and/or phosphorus might increase production, I do not recommend it because of potential changes in plant composition. Cool-season grasses and broadleaf plants will be stimulated by fertilization,” Fick said. Fertilization of cool-season grasses such as smooth brome and tall fescue should be based on a soil test, he added. He suggested that land owners follow recommendations found in the Kansas State University Research and Extension publications: Smooth Brome Production and Utilization C-402 www.oznet.ksu.edu/library/crpsl2/ samplers/c402.asp or Tall Fescue Production and Utilization C-729 www.oznet.ksu.edu/library/crpsl2/samplers/c729.asp. If the land has not been burned for a few years, it would be a good idea to conduct a prescribed burn, said the K- State agronomist.

“Burning will remove mulch and standing dead litter. Although this material will add yield when baled, forage quality will be reduced,” he said. The proper time to hay native warmseason grasses in Kansas is during July, he added.

“Crude protein will drop a half percentage point every week during July, but will usually be 6 to 8 percent during this time. Peak yield on warm-season grasses will probably not occur until August, but by that time, crude protein content will be less than 5 percent. A mid-July haying date on native grass is a good compromise between yield and quality,” Fick said. Cool-season grasses should be hayed during the heading to full bloom stage to optimize yield and quality, he said. More information is available by contacting Fick at 785/532-7223 or whfick@ ksu.edu.