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Funds are available for prairie strip plantings that reduce runoff of water and soil.

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

February 17, 2022

3 Min Read
Prairie strips of native vegetation in or on the edge of a corn or soybean field help keep water and soil in place
SLOW YOUR FLOW: Prairie strips of native vegetation in or on the edge of a corn or soybean field help keep water and soil in place. Funding is available to help with prairie strip establishment through federal government cost share and the Missouri Prairie Foundation.Courtesy Missouri Prairie Foundation

Heavy rains can run fast across a plowed farm field heading straight for the ditch. But what if you could slow it down and create a sort of speed bump in your field to help keep soil in place?

Carol Davit, Missouri Prairie Foundation executive director, says planting prairie strips in or around farm fields is one way to not only prevent water runoff and soil erosion, but also improve pollinator habitat. Her organization has grant funding available for farmers willing to give the practice a try.

“The main goal of prairie strips is to keep productive farmland productive,” she explains. “Prairie strips protect streams by keeping any kind of agricultural chemicals on the field where they can do their work, and keeping soil on the fields rather than running off. The practice is designed to be used on and around productive farmland to address erosion or water-quality concerns. The secondary purpose is to provide wildlife and beneficial insect habitat by establishing diverse plant communities.”

Planting prairie strips is part of the continuous Conservation Reserve Program under CP43. The practice has been gaining momentum in the U.S. with more than 14,000 acres enrolled across 14 states. The latest CRP numbers show Illinois leading in plantings with 6,393 acres in the program, followed by 4,187 acres in Iowa and 1,174 in Minnesota. But Missouri lags far behind.

Currently, there has been limited enrollment in the practice, Davit says, but she’d like to see acreage increase.

Planting strips on acres

CP43 prairie strips has been available to landowners through the USDA Farm Service Agency since 2019. Diverse perennial plants can be planted on terrace channels, along waterways, next to irrigation pivot corners or along field edges, Davit explains.

Farmers can elect to take a minimum of 30 feet to 120 feet of cropland, or not more than 25% of a field, and replace corn or soybeans with a diversity of native plants. Machinery traffic is allowed on locations that replace turn rows on the perimeter of the field, but the strips cannot be used as travel corridors.

According to the STRIPS (Science-based Trials of Row Crops Integrated with Prairie Strips) Research Team and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, farmers who plant just 10% of the crop area in prairie strips experience the following:

benefits of prairie strips infographic

Funds available for planting

The CP43 prairie strips program differs from general CRP in that it is not competitive. So, if your land meets requirements and acres are available, your land is accepted.

The first step 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% cost-share payments for establishment

  • 5% practice incentive payment

  • sign-up incentive equal to 32.5% of the first year’s rental payment

But Davit says the Missouri Prairie Foundation also has limited funds to help offset the cost of establishing prairie strips. “A farmer could gain cost share through CP43, and also come to us for additional funds to help offset establishment,” she says.

The best time to plant prairie strips is typically in the winter months, November through March. Most native plant seeds need to go through cold periods to break dormancy. Davit encourages farmers to start planning and applying for funding for fall establishment of prairie strips now.

Missouri Prairie Foundation, through its GrowNative! program, offers an online guide where farmers can research and purchase native seed. For more information on Missouri Prairie Foundation grant opportunities, call Davit at 573-356-7828.

Women’s prairie strip program

The Missouri Prairie Foundation, along with American Farmland Trust, is offering a webinar May 11 for female landowners to learn more about prairie strips. Women will be able to ask questions of the Natural Resources Conservation Service regarding the CP43 practice. To learn more, visit Missouri Prairie Foundation at moprairie.org.

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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