Producers who opt not to extend or renew contracts on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) ground may want to maintain the established cover and hay those acres, says Walt Fick, Kansas State University extension range and pasture management specialist.

“Land enrolled in CRP is generally highly erodible,” says Fick. “Maintaining these acres with a perennial grass cover will reduce erosion, improve water quality, enhance wildlife and reduce sedimentation.”

Considering fertilization needs of the crop is a good starting point. For CRP ground that was seeded to warm-season native grasses, fertilizing with nitrogen and/or phosphorus might increase production. Even so, Fick doesn’t recommend it because of potential changes in plant composition. “Cool-season grasses and broadleaf plants will be stimulated by fertilization,” he says.

For cool-season grasses like smooth brome and tall fescue, Fick suggests basing fertilization on a soil test. Recommendations can be found in Kansas State University Research and Extension publications: Smooth Brome Production and Utilization C-402 www.oznet.ksu.edu/library/c402 or Tall Fescue Production and Utilization C-729 www.oznet.ksu.edu/library/c729.

Prescribed burning – to remove mulch and standing dead litter – is another option. “Although this material will add yield when baled, forage quality will be reduced,” he says.

In his part of the country, the proper time to hay native warm-season grasses is during July. “Crude protein will drop a half percentage point every week during July, but will usually be 6-8% during this time,” Fick says. Peak yield on warm-season grasses will probably not occur until August, but by that time crude protein will be less than 5%. A mid-July haying date on native grass is a good compromise between yield and quality. Cool-season grasses should be hayed during the heading-to-full-bloom stage to optimize yield and quality.

For more information, contact Fick at 785-532-7223 or whfick@ksu.edu. For suggestions on getting former CRP acres ready to graze, see the lead story on our Web site at hayandforage.com.