CP43 Prairie Strips: Today’s New Habitat Practice

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Habitat How-To: CP43 Prairie Strips

By Aaron Kuehl

The 2018 Farm Bill is finally in motion. The first general Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) sign-up since 2016 has ended with 3.4 million acres of offers accepted. There is still a lot of work to be done on the accepted offers, including developing a seeding plan and ultimately seeding those acres with quality habitat mixes (available from Pheasants Forever) in fall 2020 or spring 2021.  
 
But there are a number of cooperators still looking for the conservation and financial benefits of CRP who were not enrolled in the recent general sign-up. For them, the CP43 Prairie Strips practice is perhaps the most exciting and flexible conservation program available. 
 
Prairie Strips is the NEW continuous CRP practice under the USDA’s Clean Lakes, Estuaries And Rivers (CLEAR) initiative. The goals of the practice are to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and provide wildlife habitat. 
 
Prairie strips are linear, diverse, perennial habitat within row crop fields. They must be between 30 and 120 feet in width (remember when it comes to pheasants and other wildlife that wider is better) and may not account for more than 25 percent of the cropped acres per tract. They can be placed along the edge of a field (like the old CP33 Buffers practice), through the field, in terrace channels, along waterways and next to pivot corners.
 
Made up of diverse native habitat, CP43 provides excellent habitat for pheasants, quail, pollinators and a suite of other wildlife. By planting at least 10 percent of a field to Prairie Strips (by the way, STRIPS was originally an acronym for Science-based, Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips), benefits include:
 
  • 44 percent reduction in water runoff 
  • 95 percent reduction in soil loss 
  • 90 percent reduction in phosphorus runoff 
  • 84 percent reduction in nitrate-nitrogen runoff 
  • Increases in beneficial insects, pollinators and wildlife.

The CP43 Prairie Strips practice is a continuous CRP program. Unlike general CRP, it is not competitive: If your land meets requirements and acres are available, your land is accepted. The first step in enrolling is to visit your local USDA service center. In addition to annual payments, cost-share and incentives offset most of the establishment costs. Financial benefits include:
 
  • 10 to 15 years of annual rental payments 
  • Up to 50% percent cost-share payments for establishment 
  • 5% Practice Incentive Payment 
  • Sign-up incentive equal to 32.5% of the first year’s rental payment

To learn more about the program, visit your local PF Farm Bill biologist. To explore CP43 Prairie Strip mixes designed by our wildlife professionals for your state, go to PFHabitatStore.com. Think Habitat!

Aaron is the Director of Seed Operations for Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever. This article first ran in the Habitat How-To Column of the Fall 2020 Issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal.