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Avoid fall plowing – leave food and cover for wildlife

  • 10/18/2016 12:18:00 PM
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Fall tillage practices, even reduced tillage techniques such as disking and chisel plowing, can eliminate important winter food and cover for many wildlife species in Iowa. 

According to Todd Bogenschutz, wildlife research biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, waste grains and crop residue remaining in untilled crop fields following harvest provide important food and cover for species such as pheasants, quail, partridge, turkey, and deer. 

Waste beans sprouting in a harvested bean field.“Studies of harvested untilled crop fields show wildlife consume 55-85 percent of the waste corn and soybeans between fall harvest and the following spring.  The corn stubble and stalks remaining in untilled cornfields also provide concealment cover for pheasants, quail, and partridge, so the birds are not so exposed to predators when feeding in the winter,” Bogenschutz said.   

Research shows even reduced tillage methods, such as disking and chisel plowing, reduce waste grains available to wildlife by 80 percent and reduce crop stubble by 50 percent or more. 

A 1985 study showed untilled Illinois corn fields averaged of 200 pounds of waste corn per acre verses 40 pounds per acre in corn fields that were disked or chisel plowed.  Moldboard plowed fields averaged four pounds per acre.

Farmers and landowners can leave a free food plot for wildlife by simply not fall plowing their fields, said Bogenschutz, no till farming is a great way to leave food and cover for wildlife.  Leaving stubble is also a great way to capture soil moisture for next year.