Monday, June 29, 2009

To plow or not to plow

Experts are trying to help landowners in the Panhandle find ways to keep grass growing on Conservation Reserve Program land instead of plowing up the soil that got in the program because it's considered more prone to erosion than other land.

The scientists are talking more about this because increasing numbers of CRP contracts are starting to expire, and once they do the payments stop and the landowners have to decide how to replace that income.

Ted McCollum, the Texas AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist based in Amarillo, says grazing the grass planted to hold the soil in place won't make as much money as the government payments, but it's still a good option.

“I think we need to keep most of this land in rangeland,” he said.

By the end of 2010, 740,384 acres in the Panhandle could go from conservation to farm production. With expiring contracts on the South Plains thrown in, the total goes to 1.26 million acres. And a lot of that has been in the program for 20 years so there's a good bit at stake.

The landowners who planted Old World bluestem and weeping love grass on the CRP land in the Panhandle will be ahead on the possibility of making more money than on native rangeland, McCollum said. But first the land has to be renovated.

If you want to know the details of McCollum's suggestions, go to this site.

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