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Cover crop, watershed protection incentives offered through NRCS

April 11, 2013 | 0 comments

Despite continuing uncertainties about the funding of some federal programs, that's not the case regarding payments for a number of conservation programs for the remainder of 2013 or on which landowners have signed contracts.

That assurance comes from Outagamie County district conservationist Lynn Szulczewski who, along with colleagues in adjacent counties, is encouraging enrollments in a cover and green manure crop incentive program and the geographically targeted Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which is designed to reduce the volume of phosphorus entering the Lower Fox River watershed and the bay of Green Bay.

Not only are these programs authorized and funded to protect the natural resources but they also mesh with farmers' goals of boosting crop production amid climate changes and of improving the soil quality on their cropland, Szulczewski points out.

Incentive programs offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) compensate growers for the cost of establishing a great variety of cover crops, she notes.

County NRCS offices have a handout of three tables, which identify the cover crop recommended for planting in Wisconsin along with advice on seeding rates, planting dates, planting depths, attributes and traits of the multiple suitable species, and appropriate management practices.

The list of suitable species for all or most of Wisconsin includes 12 grass and grain varieties, six non-legume broadleaf crops, nine legumes, and seven cocktail mixes - most of which contain either oilseed radish or oats.

One of the few restrictions is that grain varieties which are grown under the cover crop incentive program are not to be harvested for grain.

Depending on the scenario, non-legume cover crops such as a combination of oilseed radish and annual ryegrass would qualify for a payment of $46.08, $53.17 or $63.81 per acre.

The rates are $37.08, $42.78, and $51.34 for legume cover crops which fix nitrogen, and $104.32 and $125.18 per acre for organic production system cover crops.

A separate residue and tillage management incentive program, for which a start-up of no-till and strip tillage qualify, offers payments of up to $5,000 annually for up to three years but there is no limit within the incentive watersheds such as the GLRI in east central Wisconsin.

The annual per acre payment rates are $20.62, $23.79, and $28.55. A newly introduced program offers $36.89 per acre for mulch tillage.

The GLRI is administered through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program. It covers most of the southeastern half of Outagamie County, a significant part of Brown County, a portion of northern Calumet County, and small parts of Winnebago and Manitowoc counties.

Financial incentives for GLRI cover practices to stabilize gullies, reduce erosion on cropland, establish a rotational grazing system, plant cover crops, use nutrient management and variable application rate technology, restore wetlands, and manage forest land.

Landowners who sign a GLRI contract have three years to implement the practices with the assurance that the financial incentives agreed to in the contract will be honored, Szulczewski indicated.

For more information about GLRI, contact the NRCS office in the counties included in the Lower Fox River watershed.

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