A CRP warm-season grass stand responds well to prescribed fires by removing the litter buildup, increasing the

diversity, creating open area on the ground and enhancing plants that attract insects.

Table of Contents
The Study Area and what we’ve learned.................................................3 The Focus On Pheasants Partnership ..................................................12 CRP Mid Contract Management ............................................................15 Focus Area Research .............................................................................17 Notes ........................................................................................................39

The CRP Mid Contract Management Tours conducted in 2004 and 2005 are just some of many efforts focused on improving the wildlife benefits associated with CRP grass stands. Sharing information with landowners and biologists is an important part of Focus On Pheasants, CRP-MAP and CRP Mid Contract Management.

2

3

This photo shows the location of the Focus On Pheasants - Focus Area located within Stanton County, Nebraska. This 32-square mile area was selected as a focus area in the state based on the amount of CRP tracts in the area (shown in gold and purple), CRP tracts enrolled into the CRP-MAP program, interest in the area landowners in participating in the program and the historical number of pheasants in the area. Those tracts highlighted in gold have had some form of Mid Contract Management performed on them since the spring of 2003. The tracts highlighted in purple have not had management performed on them due to the presence of a historical noxious weed problem, the need for control areas with the research projects being conducted or landowners not wanting to participate in the program.

4

Focus Area Timeline
• Written in collaboration among NGPC, PF and NRCS biologists, the Focus On Pheasants • • • • •
plan was approved by the NGPC Board of Commissioners in May. Selected Focus Areas (See page 16 for a complete list of all Focus Areas in the state). Discuss objectives and coordinate efforts between NGPC, PF, FSA (local staff, county committee, and state office staff), NRCS (local and state office staff) and area landowners. Hired one full-time biologist position (1-year contract) to implement the plan. Designed evaluation procedures. Began making landowner contacts.

2002

2003 • Disked and interseeded 1,000 acres on 37 different tracts of land owned by 24 different landowners. Conducted spring pheasant crowing surveys. Initiated pilot study on the grassland bird response to disking and interseeding. Conducted August roadside pheasant brood surveys. Conducted habitat tours of the focus area for NGPC, PF, local FSA and NRCS and area landowners. Discussed the results and landowner satisfaction. • Monitored noxious weed response and spot treated by spraying 1,000 acres – some landowners did this themselves. • Applied for and received a State Wildlife Grant to initiate a Grassland Bird Study. The study will be conducted through Oklahoma State University to monitor response to habitat work. • Enrolled 780 acres of CRP in the focus area into the CRP-MAP access program.

• • • •

• • • • • • • • •

2004
Disk and interseeded additional 1,100 acres on 44 tracts of land owned by 26 landowners. Conducted spring pheasant crowing counts. Began Grassland Bird Study. Initiated pilot pheasant telemetry study to determine nesting and brood rearing habitat preferences. Initiated insect study to measure response to uniform management treatments. Hosted the 1st CRP Mid Contract Management Tour in August. Conducted August roadside pheasant brood surveys. Monitored noxious weed response and spot treated by spraying 2,100 acres. Enrolled additional 240 acres of CRP into the CRP-MAP walk-in access program.

5

Focus Area Timeline
• Disked and interseeded 100 additional acres. • Initiated a demonstration of Glyphosate herbicide application and interseeding legumes. • Initiated a demonstration of Select® herbicide on brome that had been disked and interseeded • Initiated a demonstration prescribed burn and interseeding legumes. • Conducted spring crow counts. • Began Pheasant Telemetry Project to monitor response by radio collaring 50 pheasant hens. • • • • • • • •
The study is conducted through the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Second year of Grassland Bird Study. Conduct August roadside pheasant brood survey. Monitor noxious weeds and spot treat by spraying and chopping 2,300 acres. Conduct 2nd Mid-Contract Management Tour in June. Conduct 2nd Twilight Habitat Tour in July. 2 Stanton County Landowners – Dale Clark and Al Platt receive recognition for FOP efforts at Pheasant Fest in Omaha. Expanded individual field demonstrations to most counties in northeast Nebraska. Presented Grassland Bird and Pheasant Telemetry preliminary results at annual meeting of The Wildlife Society. in previous years.

2005

2006 • • • • • •
Continue monitoring the management techniques being applied in the study area. Completed 2nd year of pheasant telemetry study. Conduct additional demonstrations of different mid-contract management techniques. Conduct field tours and presentations of data. Presented Grassland Songbird study results at the Perdix meeting. Presented Grassland Songbird and Pheasant Telemetry study results at annual State Habitat Meeting.

6

CRP Mid Contract Management
~ Observations and Opinions ~ Disking and Interseeding

Two passes minimum is required in stands of smooth bromegrass or switchgrass. In some cases, our efforts have reached as high as five passes with a disk. Even aggressive disking in this fashion does not make fields susceptible to erosion. It is far easier to disk “too little” than it is to disk “too much”. Haying or burning the grass stand prior to disking reduces litter and improves the ease of disking, but is not crucial to achieving good results. Removal of litter may decrease the number of disking passes necessary to achieve the desired impact and results. Smooth bromegrass typically returns aggressively in the 3rd growing season following management. While the smooth bromegrass comes back aggressively, the grass stand can still provide good structure and nesting cover at that point. Disking prior to September 15th on smooth bromegrass does not sufficiently set the grass stand back. Regrowth occurs within months and significantly reduces the effective length of the treatment by at least one season. Disking smooth bromegrass in the spring is the most effective treatment, but the ability to accomplish field work prior to May 1st is often determined by weather. Care should be taken to stay out of waterways and away from the field borders when selecting areas for disking. Care should be taken to identify areas of known noxious weed infestations and then design work around these areas. If the area had a history of noxious weeds prior to enrollment in CRP, it will have noxious weeds following a disking. Frank discussions with landowners about early successional plants (weeds) need to be discussed prior to initiation of work. The landowners tolerance to early successional plants and desire for more wildlife will help guide your management technique application. Effective communication with USDA field office, local weed superintendent, landowners, and media can greatly increase support for habitat improvements such as this. This partnership has been enhanced by substantial support from the media, partners and landowners. The legume seeding mixtures used (see page 57 for a list of mixtures) produced desirable plant composition and structure. The addition of white sweetclover to mixtures may be desirable due to it’s later maturation date. Annual plant responses varied from site to site. Generally speaking, common sunflower and annual foxtail are the primary annuals that show up in the first growing season. Common sunflowers virtually disappears from the site after the first year.

• • •

7

CRP Mid Contract Management
~ Observations and Opinions ~ Prescribed fire and haying

Prescribed fire on warm-season CRP grass stands can be effective in reducing cool-season grass encroachment and for certain tree control if timed correctly. It also reduces grass litter and invigorates regrowth. Some annual plants also respond favorably to the increased sunlight penetration. To reduce the encroachment of cool-season grasses, late April burns are recommended. The reduction of litter following a burn provides an excellent opportunity to: ♦ Disk and interseed a mixture of legumes. ♦ Increase disturbance on the site. ♦ Use a no-till drill to interseed legumes into the existing grass stand. Prescribed fire on an established cool-season grass stand does very little to improve the grass stand composition or diversity. It will reduce the litter and can be effective in controlling some woody plants. Haying can also reduce litter and provide an opportunity to either disk and interseed or to apply other management techniques. Interseeding a legume mixture directly into a hayed cool-season grass stand without another form of disturbance produced minimal benefits that will last for a short period of time. Haying that is performed on a site 3 to 5 years after an initial upgrade has provided positive wildlife benefits. Even on sites where the cool-season grasses have returned aggressively, haying the site has brought back a flush of legume growth. Haying activities are restricted from being used during the primary nesting season dates of May 1st to July 15th.

• •

8

CRP Mid Contract Management
~ Observations and Opinions ~ Noxious Weeds
• Noxious weeds were identified as an issue to be addressed in the planning of Focus On Pheasant
activities. The plants on Nebraska’s noxious weed list that were anticipated to be of concern included musk, plumeless, and Canada thistles.

CRP tracts with a history of thistle problems and where thistle seeds were present in the seed bank were more problematic than tracts with limited thistle history. When thistle problems occurred on CRP tracts that had been disked and interseeded with legumes as part of the Focus On Pheasants project, appropriate treatments were applied. bicides. If thistle problems were widespread over a large area, then a blanket application of appropriate herbicide that was labeled for legumes and/or shredding of affected areas were treatments that provided acceptable results.

• Those treatments included hand chopping, spot shredding, and spot spraying with appropriate her-

Communication and cooperation among all involved entities were the key to resolving noxious weed problems on CRP tracts while still developing and maintaining desired vegetative diversity provided by the interseeded legumes. ment in CRP, Mid Contract Management activities will bring those noxious weeds out again. Any activities that disturb the soil will allow those early successional stage plants to reappear.

• The key message here is that if an area had a known history of noxious weeds prior to its enroll-

9

CRP Mid Contract Management
~ Observations and Opinions ~ Chemical burn back and interseeding
• • • •

Where disking is not feasible, chemical burn back using a Glyphosate herbicide may provide a good alternative. Situations where the use of herbicide might be preferred include areas with known noxious weed infestations, lack of tillage equipment, or hayed cool-season grass stands. The use of Select® herbicide or other non-broadleaf herbicides may offer some hope for reducing the regrowth of cool-season grasses in upgraded areas. Our experience has found that when controlling smooth bromegrass with a Glyphosate, an application of 28+ ounces per acre with an AMS applied between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm on a warm day works best.

Haying and Spraying recommendations developed for use in the Focus On Pheasants partnership by Jim Brown, Natural Resource Specialist, US Army Corps of Engineers Republican City, NE.

10

CRP Mid Contract Management
~ Observations and Opinions ~

Final Thoughts

Cost share rates, generally speaking, are too low. Even for landowners that seriously desire to see habitat improvement and for those that are only conducting this work as a requirement of CRP, this will be viewed as a financial burden or will result in sub par results due to lack of awareness. There are very few certainties in life…...two that can be applied to CRP Mid Contract Management are: 1). You can’t ever kill off smooth bromegrass with any amount of disking. 2). If you had noxious weeds before enrollment in CRP, they will show up again following disking.

While USDA technical guides are pretty complete at describing maximum management efforts (how deep to disk, how many passes, percent reside, etc.), they are generally weak on outlining the minimum management efforts required to accomplish the desired results.

Our experience showed that minimum management efforts typically produced minimum, if any, results.
11

Focus On Pheasants
Focus On Pheasants is a partnership effort formed in 2002 that brings together a unique combination of Federal, State and Local government agencies, conservation groups, private industry and landowners. This combination of groups have come together in an effort to improve mature grass stands throughout the state and provide better pheasant habitat. The average CRP field in Nebraska is now 16 years old and has had little or no management performed on it during the life of its contract. The primary focus of this partnership has been to increase the wildlife habitat quality and diversity of CRP grass stands using the following management tools: • Controlled burns • Interseeding legumes • Disking • Chemical herbaceous vegetation control • Haying

The Focus On Pheasants Partnership

13

Focus On Pheasants
Dixon County

Stanton County

14

Kimball County

Nebraska One Box Foundation

Harlan County Reservoir WMA

Sherman Reservoir

Branched Oak WMA

Location of Focus Areas within Nebraska

Is This Good or Bad?
The interpretation of the results from Mid Contract Management activities is often left to the eye of the beholder. Wildlife Biologists will look at this field and see an abundance of broad-leaved forbs, open areas on the ground, no noxious weeds present, plants that attract insects for young chicks and lots of diversity…….just what we are looking for from CRP Mid Contract Management activities! A landowner or neighbor that is unprepared for these results may have an entirely different opinion of the management activity results. Taking the time to determine landowner goals and objectives and the history of the site will add to the wildlife benefits created above by preparing landowners for the expected results. Very few things related to wildlife management happen overnight. Conducting proper CRP Mid Contract Management activities is one of the few management practices that can produce a wildlife response in a short timeline.
16

In the Focus On Pheasant “Focus Area” located in Stanton County, several research projects have been started in the last few years to begin to document the wildlife and vegetative responses to CRP grass stand treatments. Some of the investigations conducted include: 1. Invertebrate abundance in CRP fields. Three different efforts have been conducted from 2000 to 2005, that looked at the effects of disking and interseeding legumes on key brood habitat components in CRP fields. 2. Evaluation of Ring-necked Pheasant Response to Disking and Interseeding Legumes on Conservation Reserve Program Fields in Northeast Nebraska. Initiated in 2004 by the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission and expanded as a University of Nebraska - Lincoln graduate project, evaluating the response of ring-necked pheasants to landscape scale habitat manipulations. 3. Spring Pheasant Crowing Counts and August Roadside Surveys. Conducted from 2003 to 2007, the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission is conducting surveys in focus areas and control areas to determine the influence of habitat improvements on pheasant abundance. 4. Grassland bird response to Disking/Interseeding of legumes in Conservation Reserve Program lands in Northeast Nebraska. Initiated in 2004, a graduate research study from Oklahoma State University is looking at grassland songbird responses to habitat improvement efforts on CRP fields. The results of these studies are summarized in this booklet today and will be expanded upon throughout the tour by the researchers. These efforts are documenting the results of CRP Mid Contract Management efforts on a landscape scale and providing early information about what management techniques are most effective.

18

Insect and Vegetation Responses to Disking and Interseeding Legumes on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Fields in Eastern Nebraska
Scott Taylor, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission
Background In the spring of 2000, the Wildlife Division of Nebraska Game and Parks recognized the need for information regarding the effects of light disking and interseeding with regard to pheasant brood habitat components on CRP fields. These management actions are required on CRP fields enrolled in the Commission’s CRP-Management Access Program (CRP-MAP). The goal of management is to improve nesting and brood rearing habitat on portions of these fields. The most important desired improvement was an increase in insect abundance. Pheasants and many other grassland birds depend heavily upon insects in their diets during the summer. Desired vegetative improvements included increases in visual obstruction, plant diversity, and canopy coverage measurements. We sampled insects and vegetation in portions of CRP fields with and without the disking and interseeding treatment to determine the effects of this management technique. Methods We sampled 4 different field types. 1) CRP fields planted to cool season grasses, with a portion of the field disked and interseeded with legumes (alfalfa, yellow sweetclover, and/or red clover), 2) CRP fields planted to warm season grasses, with a portion of the field disked and interseeded with legumes, 3) either cool or warm season CRP fields with a portion of the field planted to a high diversity seed mixture (CP-25), and 4) native prairie hay fields. Transects were located > 20 m from field borders and ran parallel to the edge. We used sweep nets to collect insects. We made 50 sweeps along each transect. Highlights of Results We acquired samples from 22 fields. In CRP fields, insect abundance was higher in treatment portions of both cool season and warm season fields. Insect abundance in CP-25 plantings was similar to those in control portions of the fields. Line to line variability in insect abundance was relatively high but field to field variability was relatively low. This suggested an uneven distribution of insects within fields. If future sampling is done, an increased number of sample lines per field is suggested to reduce variability of mean abundance measurements. Significant increases in both visual obstruction (height and density) and forb (broad-leafed plants) to grass ratios were observed on both cool season and warm season CRP fields that were disked and interseeded with legumes. Litter (dead plant material) decreased significantly after treatment. This technique quickly improved nesting habitat (structurally) for pheasants and many other grassland dependent bird species. The reduction in litter and increase in insect abundance appears to have made these tracts more attractive for foraging and brood rearing as well. As such, this technique shows promise for improving wildlife habitat on older CRP stands that have lost vegetative diversity.

19

Table 1. Mean biomass (g) of invertebrates sampled in several herbaceous community types in Nebraska during summer, 2000. Measurements represent the total biomass collected along 3 50-m transects per field; sample sizes are the number of fields.

Untreated Portion of Field Field Type Cool-season CRP Warm-season CRP CP-25 and adjacent CRP Native prairie n
6 6 5 5

Interseeded or High Diversity Portion of Field Mean
9.07 9.31 4.85

Mean
3.94 2.66 5.74 8.21

SE
0.81 0.97 1.76 2.48

SE
1.53 1.71 2.90

Light disking and interseeding to improve brood habitat
Ron Leathers Pheasants Forever, Inc. Pheasants are early-successional species, relying heavily on a combination of grasses and weedy forbs to produce seed and insect food sources. In particular, pheasant hens and chicks are heavily dependant on insects as a primary food source during spring nesting and summer broodrearing. Hens must eat insect foods to meet their needs for high levels of calcium and protein to produce eggs. Pheasant chicks are almost solely dependant on insects throughout their first summer to meet their needs for high calorie, high protein foods to reach maturity by winter. As grasses grow, they tend to choke out these weedy forb species and can become nearly pure stands of a single grass species, leaving pheasants and other birds without the food sources and diversity they need to fully reach their population potential. Nebraska’s CRP-Management Access Program is a joint program of Pheasants Forever and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission that promotes management of aging CRP grasslands to set back grass growth and encourage reestablishment of forb species. The specific management practice that is used for this program is light disking and interseeding legumes (typically alfalfa, sweetclover, and red clover). Some of the highlights of a 2001 & 2002 study on the CRP-MAP program’s management practices are presented below. Invertebrates: Managed fields had a much higher availability of insects and invertebrates than idle fields. The increase was particularly pronounced in the native grass stands. Idle native grasses had the lowest overall availability of invertebrates, translating into the least available food source for pheasant chicks. However, managed native grasses had the highest availability of invertebrates and the most food sources for chicks. Although less pronounced than in the natives, brome fields also had more invertebrates when managed than when left idle.

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Available invertebrates
3000 Biomass (mg) 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0 Idle Managed Brome 1918.9 2334.3 Native 531.6 2757.7 Idle Managed

Mean %

Vegetation changes: Managed fields had more legume cover than idle fields. Without management, the average percent cover of legumes was less than 2% in brome fields and 0.5% in native grasses. After management, legumes accounted for roughly 1/3rd of the total cover in brome fields and 1/6th of the cover in native grasses. Managed fields also had more forb cover (including the planted legumes and any volunteer weedy forbs) than idle fields. Planted legumes accounted for the majority of the forb cover in managed fields. Again, the percentage of forbs in idle fields was extremely low (<5% in brome and <10% in natives) compared to the percentage in managed fields (36% in brome and 28% in natives). One major concern of landowners is that disturbance of the soil surface by light disking and interseeding could lead to increased noxious weed growth. I found no evidence to suggest that the disking and interseeding activity promoted any more growth of noxious weeds than would occur naturally in idle fields. The average in all fields was less than 0.25% on all our study sites. These concerns are not unfounded, however, as I have seen fields with major histories of noxious weed problems that got much worse when disked and I suggest not conducting management activities on those portions of fields with a history of noxious weed problems to avoid any possibility of future problems.

Planted legume cover
35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Brome Native Idle Managed

Total % forb cover
40 35 30 Mean % 25 20 15 10 5 0 Brome Native Idle Managed

Percent cover noxious weeds
Idle 2001 2002 0 < 0.1 Brome Managed < 0.1 0 Idle 0 < 0.1 Natives Managed < 0.1 0.2

Summary: Light disking and interseeding legumes as a management practice for aging CRP fields tends to produce more diverse cover with a higher proportion of legumes and forbs. Subsequently, invertebrate biomass is also higher in managed fields. The result is better brood rearing cover for pheasants and other grassland nesting birds with more diverse vegetation and a greater amount of spring and summer food resources for nesting hens and chicks.

21

Insect Response to Disking and Interseeding Legumes on Conservation Reserve Program Lands in Northeast Nebraska
Jamie Bachmann, Oklahoma State University, Scott Taylor, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Lucas Negus, Oklahoma State University. Insects are important food resources for many grassland birds. A survey was conducted in 2004 to determine insect abundance, biomass and diversity in treated vs. untreated fields as part of the Grassland Bird Study in the Stanton County Focus On Pheasants study area. Eight of the sixteen fields used for the grassland bird study were chosen randomly for insect sampling. Of those eight, four were disked and interseeded with yellow sweet clover, alfalfa, and red clover; and four were control fields that received no treatment. Using a sweep net, three sub-samples of twenty sweeps each were taken along 200 meter transects within each field. Samples were preserved sorted, identified, dried, and weighed for biomass over the fall and winter of 2004-2005. Preliminary statistics have been preformed to compare insect samples between treated and untreated fields. Previous research has shown grasshoppers, butterflies, caterpillars, beetles, and spiders as being the main food resource for grassland bird hatchlings. Graph 1 compares the total abundance of these insects for July samples between treated and non-treated fields. Treated fields had an insect abundance of 2,951 and non-treated fields had an abundance of 1,021. Graph 2 compares the biomass, or dry weight, of the same insects. Treated fields have nearly three times more biomass than non-treated fields.

Insect Abundance Treated Vs. Non Treated Fields
3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0 Treated Not Treated

Insect Biomas Treated Vs. Non Treated Fields
25 B io m a s s ( m g ) 20 15 10 5 0 Treated Not Treated

Abun dance

Graph 1. Abundance of insects favored by grassland birds in treated (disked/interseeded) and unmanaged fields.

Graph 2. Biomass (dry weight) of insects favored by grassland birds in treated (disked/interseeded) and unmanaged fields.

22

Ring-neck Pheasant Habitat Selection and Productivity in Landscapes Containing Disked and Interseeded CRP in Northeast Nebraska
Ty Mathews and Larkin Powell University of Nebraska - Lincoln A decline in the quality and quantity of ring-necked pheasant nesting and brood-rearing habitat has been hypothesized as a major factor limiting population growth in the Great Plains. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was thought to reestablish this valuable habitat, but population response was smaller than anticipated. Pheasant populations in Nebraska rose in the first 5-6 years of CRP then declined thereafter. This decline is thought to be due to the change of vegetation composition in these fields. Newly planted CRP fields (≤5 to 6 years) contain a high diversity of grasses, forbs, legumes, and annual weeds with an abundance of bare ground needed by nesting pheasant hens and their broods. Older fields (>6 years) are characterized by dense monoculture of grass with little bare ground and thick litter. Disking and interseeding forbs into older CRP fields re-create the conditions found in the newly planted fields. Objectives • Compare habitat use of pheasant hens and their broods in CRP fields that have been disked and interseeded to unmanaged CRP fields and other grasslands • Compare chick survival in CRP fields that have been disked and interseeded to unmanaged CRP fields and other grasslands • Determine the insect diet of pheasant chicks in all field types

23

Nest Survival
1 .0 0

Daily Nest Survival

0 .9 8 0 .9 6 0 .9 4 0 .9 2 0 .9 0

In t e r s e e d e d
2005 2006 P o o le d Y e a r s

O th e r

CRP Nest Success
2005 Interseeded Non-interseeded 2006 Interseeded Non-interseeded 53.3% (n=15) 37.5% (n=16)

60.0% 33.3%

(n=10) (n=18)

24

Available Habitat in Focus Area
5000 4000

Hectacre

IS
3000

2000

1000

0 CRP Crop Other Grassland Other

Habitat Type

Nest Site Preference
0 .7

2005
0 .6

Chi-square = 28.07 P <.0001

0 .5

Percent

0 .4

0 .3

0 .2

0 .1

0 .0

CRP

In te rs e e d e d

O th e r

A v a ila b le H a b ita t N est

25

Hen Survival
1.0

Survival

0.8

0.6

0.4 3/1/2005 4/1/2005 5/1/2005 6/1/2005 7/1/2005 8/1/2005

Nest Survival
Raw Nest Success Interseeded: 65% Non-interseeded: 55% Other: 42% Daily Nest Survival Interseeded: 0.982 Non-interseeded: 0.977 Other: 0.964 (95% CI= 0.963-.0992) (95% CI= 0.956-0.987) (95% CI= 0.909-0.987) (n=20) (n=20) (n=7)

26

2005 Nest Site Preference
0.5 0.4

Chi-square = 28.07 P < 0.0001

Percent

0.3 0.2 0.1 0.0

Interseeded

CRP

OG

Other

Nest Available Habitat

2006 Nest Site Preference
0.5 0.4

Chi-square = 39.31 P < 0.0001

Percent

0.3 0.2 0.1 0.0

Interseeded

CRP

OG

Other

Nest Available Habitat

27

2005 Nest Microhabitat
70 60 6 5 4 3 30 20 10 0 2 1 0

Percent Cover

40

CSG W SG
Nest Random

IF

OF

BG

VOR

t-test: *** denotes p < 0.001

2006 Nest Microhabitat
60 50

*** *** *** *** ******

5 4 3 2

Percent Cover

40 30 20 10 0

1 0

CSG W SG
N est R andom

IF

OF

BG

VO R

t-test: *** denotes p < 0.001

28

Density (dm)

Density (dm)

50

Brood Survival
Model year * int int * alf int year * int * alf No difference in Survival alf year AIC 36.65 38.01 38.15 38.44 40.06 40.46 41.17 ∆AIC 0 1.36 1.5 1.79 3.41 3.81 4.52 AIC Weight 0.34 0.17 0.16 0.14 0.06 0.05 0.04 k 3 3 2 5 1 2 2

Brood Survival
Int model
% Time in Interseeded 0.05 0.1 0.1946 0.2 0.25 Survival 0.971 0.977 0.984 0.985 0.987
29

21-day 0.544 0.610 0.716 0.721 0.767

Brood Microhabitat Selection
80

*

***

5 4

Percent Habitat

60

***
40

3

*
2

20

***

1 0

0

CS

WS

IF

OF

BG

VOR

B ro o d L o ca tio n R a n d o m L o c a tio n

*** denotes p < 0.001 T-test: * denotes p < 0.005

Conclusions
Interseeding CRP provides reproductive benefits
Hens select interseeded CRP for nesting Nest survival tends to be higher in interseeded areas

Hens with broods tend to prefer interseeded CRP Hens with broods selected areas with high forb content
30

Density (dm)

Stanton County Focus Area Pheasant Index Survey Information
Scott Wessel Wildlife Biologist, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission

Spring Rooster Crowing Counts
Year
2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002
1 2

1, 2

Total Crows
n/a 630 653 624 389 374

Crows/Stop
n/a 21.0 21.8 20.8 12.9 12.5

Habitat work began in the fall of 2002. Route conducted in April with 2 minute stops.

August Roadside Brood Survey
Year 2007 3 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002
1 2 3

1, 2

# of broods 32 15 36 49 37 7

# of young 162 63 193 278 255 45

Brood Size 5.06 4.2 5.36 5.67 6.89 6.42

Young/ mile 5.4 2.1 6.43 5.56 4.25 0.75

Miles of Route 30 30 30 50 60 60

Habitat work began in the fall of 2002. Route run on days with a heavy dew. Miles traveled varies due to road conditions and staffing. Includes 1 prairie chicken brood with 8 chicks.

31

32

33

Grassland bird response to disking/interseeding of legumes in Conservation Reserve Program lands in Northeast Nebraska
Lucas Negus and Craig A. Davis Oklahoma State University Grassland bird populations are declining faster than any other group of birds. These declines have been attributed to the loss of prairie habitat. With the tremendous losses of native prairie throughout the Midwest, surrogate grasslands such as CRP have become increasingly more important to grassland wildlife. While game birds are most commonly thought of as being the main beneficiaries, nongame grassland songbirds also benefit from CRP. Recently, several studies have attributed population increases, or at least stable trends, in specific grassland bird species to CRP. In May of 2002, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Pheasants Forever, Inc. initiated a program to curb declining ring-necked pheasant populations in the state. The program, entitled “Focus on Pheasants,” placed an emphasis on creating nesting and brood-rearing habitat in the aging CRP fields by disking and interseeding legumes. Although improving pheasant habitat is the primary objective, grassland birds will likely benefit from the habitat manipulations as well. These habitat upgrades provide an excellent opportunity to evaluate grassland bird population response to this management practice. Funding for this study was provided through the Nebraska State Wildlife Grant program. State Wildlife Grants provide funding for management practices and research that benefit at-risk wildlife species. Objectives: • To compare grassland bird richness and abundance in CRP fields disked/interseeded to CRP fields unmanaged. • To compare grassland bird nest productivity in CRP fields disked/interseeded to CRP fields unmanaged. • To evaluate differences in vegetation structure, composition, and cover between CRP fields disked/interseeded and CRP fields unmanaged. Beginning in May 2004, grassland bird abundance and nest productivity were sampled in 16 fields throughout the Stanton County focus area. Eight fields were disked and interseeded and served as experimental fields. Eight fields in which no disking and interseeding was performed serve as control

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Results - 2004: Grassland bird species observed during surveys include eastern and western meadowlarks, grasshopper sparrows, Henslow’s sparrows, Dickcissels, sedge wrens, bobolinks, field sparrows, common yellowthroats, brown-headed cowbirds, and northern harriers. Other bird species using the CRP include redwing blackbirds, barn swallows, rough-winged swallows, eastern kingbirds, mallards, blue-winged teal, ring-necked pheasants, northern bobwhite, and mourning doves. Bird surveys from the 2004 field season indicate some important differences. Several grassland bird species, including Dickcissels and grasshopper sparrows, were more abundant in experimental fields than control fields. Dickcissels were 3 times more abundant in experimental fields. Experimental fields had a species richness of 24, compared to a richness of 18 in control fields. Several differences between treatments were also seen in nesting behavior. Of 100 nests found throughout the field season, 88 were in experimental fields. Additionally, nest densities were 3 times greater in experimental fields. Nest success was 37-40% in both experimental and control fields. Differences in vegetation characteristics were also observed. The control field vegetation was composed of only 1.5% forbs and 2% bare ground. Conversely, experimental fields were composed of 25% forbs and 25% bare ground. Litter (dead material in contact with the ground) was two times deeper in control fields than experimental. Finally, vegetation height was relatively uniform in control fields, ranging from 34 to 71 cm throughout the summer. Vegetation height in experimental fields varied greatly, from 24 to 90 cm, indicating a diversity of heights throughout the field. Bird surveys and nest searches resumed in May of this summer, with some slight modifications. Nest searches have been intensified to achieve the goal of finding 200 nests. Following this summers field season, results from the two field seasons will be compiled, analyzed, interpreted, and reported.

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5 4 3 2 1

Overall Abundance
*

1.75 1.5 1.25 1 0.75 0.5 0.25

Diversity
*

0

Treatment
12 10 8 6 4 2 0

Reference

0

Treatment

Reference

Species Richness
*
Ref erence Treatment

2004

2005

Nest Densities
5 4.5 4 Nests/Hectare 3.5 3 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 2004
36
Reference Treatment

n = 112

n = 135

2005

Grassland Bird Conclusions
• Disked/interseeded fields supported higher abundances and more species than undisked fields • Disking/interseeding created vegetation response that attracted diverse assemblage of grassland birds • Nest densities appeared to be higher in disked/interseeded fields, but no difference in nest success • Mature brome stands were still important, particularly to Henslow’s Sparrows and Bobolinks

Overall Conclusions
• Planted grasslands are important for wildlife species • Mid-contract management is important in grass dominated, aged CRP fields • Disking and interseeding legumes is an effective management technique • A wide array of wildlife (both game and nongame) and organisms benefit from management • Management is needed in the future to maintain/enhance the wildlife habitat CRP fields provide as they progress through the life of their contract
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CRP Upgrade Mixtures
These legume mixtures have been designed to use in CRP grass stand improvements throughout Nebraska. The cost of the mixtures range from $10 to $20 per acre.
Legume Mixture #1
5.0 lbs PLS/acre (26.2 PLS/ft2)

Legume Mixture #2
5.0 lbs PLS/acre (25.7 PLS/ft2)

Legume Mixture #3
5.0 lbs PLS/acre (26.4 PLS/ft2)

Alfalfa ...............................3.0 Red Clover .......................1.5 Sweet Clover....................0.5 $11.20 per Acre

Alfalfa .......................... 3.0 Sweet Clover ...............2.0

Alfalfa ............................ 3.0 Red Clover .................... 2.0

$10.74 per Acre

$11.35 per Acre

Legume Mixture #4
4.0 lbs PLS/acre

Legume Mixture #5
3.61 lbs PLS/acre

Legume Mixture #6
3.45 lbs PLS/acre (17.7 PLS/ft2)

Alfalfa ............................. 2.5 Crimson Clover............... 0.5 Red Clover ..................... 0.5 Black-eyed Susan......... 0.05 Illinois Bundleflower........ 0.2 Lemon Mint................... 0.05 Showy Partridgepea ....... 0.2 $16.45 per Acre

Alfalfa .......................... 2.5 Sweet Clover ............... 1.0 Black-eyed Susan ..... 0.05 Cudweed Sagewort ... 0.01 Roundhead Lespedeza .... 0.04 Stiff Goldenrod .......... 0.01

Alfalfa ........................... 2.0 Red Clover ................... 1.0 Black-eyed Susan....... 0.05 Illinois Bundleflower...... 0.2 Showy Partridgepea ..... 0.2

$15.73 per Acre

$14.42 per Acre

Legume Mixture #7
3.45 lbs PLS/acre (20.0 PLS/ft2)

Legume Mixture #8
3.86 lbs PLS/acre

Legume Mixture #9
2.96 lbs PLS/acre

Alfalfa .............................. 2.0 Red Clover ...................... 0.8 Black-eyed Susan ......... 0.05 Illinois Bundleflower ........ 0.2 Lemon Mint ..................... 0.1 Showy Partridgepea........ 0.2 White Prairie Clover ........ 0.1 $20.14 per Acre

Alfalfa ............................ 3.0 Sweet Clover................. 0.5 Black-eyed Susan ....... 0.05 Cicer Milkvetch.............. 0.3 Stiff Goldenrod ............ 0.01

Alfalfa ............................. 2.0 Sweet Clover.................. 0.5 Black-eyed Susan ........ 0.05 Cudweed Sagewort...... 0.01 Illinois Bundleflower ....... 0.2 Showy Partridgepea ....... 0.2 $14.41 per Acre

$12.14 per Acre

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Notes:

________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________
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This photo is of a 13-year old CRP field that is over 1,000 acres in size and has had no management performed on it during its contract. It was originally established to a mixture of Brome grass and alfalfa and is now a monoculture of Brome grass that provides minimal wildlife benefits.

The same field was disked and interseeded with legumes to increase the diversity of the grass stand through the CRP-MAP program. It now has a diversity of cover that provides nesting, brood-rearing and winter cover for a variety of wildlife including grassland songbirds, pheasants and quail.

A grass stand that has been dominated by smooth bromegrass and lost its productivity for upland wildlife. An area that was excellent wildlife habitat in the past has now naturally moved through succession to a more mature grass stand in need of management.

On April 7, 2004, the grass stand is disked with three passes and then interseeded with a legume mixture. A minimum of three passes with a disk was necessary with a mature stand of bromegrass but still leaves more than 50% residue.

On July 29, 2004, the area now has a wide diversity of plant species, has an open understory, supports plants that attract insects, and is once again a diverse grassland. The legumes that were interseeded into the disked area are already present and providing brood-rearing habitat for pheasants as well as a diverse habitat for all types of grassland birds.

On May 30, 2005, the area now shows the true value of performing upgrades on mature grass stand. The area is providing excellent nesting and brood-rearing cover for a wide range of wildlife, especially pheasant, quail, waterfowl and grassland songbirds with 22” of undisturbed grass and forb cover.

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