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CATTLE FOCUS: Integrating livestock into cropland in eastern South Dakota is one of the ways Ducks Unlimited plans to use additional money it received for its Soil Health Initiative.

Ducks Unlimited offers more soil health incentive funds

Ducks Unlimited hopes to focus most of the funds into projects helping farmers integrate cattle into cropland.

Additional funds will soon be available to South Dakota landowners interested in improving soil health and benefiting wildlife. Ducks Unlimited's new Soil Health Initiative is one of the projects that received funding as part of a $1 million grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Council.

The grant will be spent on a variety of wetland conservation activities in the Prairie Pothole Region of eastern South Dakota. The Prairie Pothole Region stretches from southern South Dakota to the Canadian prairies and is the most important waterfowl breeding habitat in North America.

Soil Health Initiative funds will be open to eastern South Dakota landowners interested in establishing cover crops, diversifying crop rotations, reducing tillage, conserving wetlands and planting grasslands. One of the key aspects of the program is the importance of integrating cattle into cropland management.

"Cattle and ducks get along just fine. We have long known grasslands managed for livestock production also provide excellent habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife species," says Steve Donovan, DU's South Dakota manager of conservation programs. "Establishing cover crops on cropland and using those acres as livestock forage will provide similar benefits to wildlife while also improving soil health and providing additional income to producers."

DU's cost share rates vary depending on location, types of soil health practices being implemented, producer's history with soil health practices, length of agreement, etc. However, an average cost share rate is about 50%, although some projects are higher than that, Donovan says.

"For producers located in areas with high wetland densities and little history with soil health practices, we tend to offer a higher cost share rate," he says.

The grant also includes funds for various wetland restoration and protection projects, such as the acquisition of conservation easements from willing landowners.

The grant and partner contributions are expected to enhance more than 30,000 acres of wetlands and associated upland habitats in eastern South Dakota, benefiting waterfowl, ring-necked pheasants, white-tailed deer, songbirds, waterbirds and a wide variety of other wildlife species.

Partners in the project include John and Cheryl Dale, the David and Margaret Grohne Family Foundation, James River Water Development District, Roberts Conservation District, First National Bank of Omaha, the South Dakota Habitat Conservation Fund, and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

South Dakota landowners and managers should contact DU's agronomist, Brad Schmidt, at 605-592-1277 for more information.

Source: Ducks Unlimited

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