Conservation Tillage and Wildlife
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Conservation Tillage and Wildlife. Modified by the GA Agriculture Education Curriculum Office July 2002. Tillage practices greatly influence wildlife habitats in agricultural landscapes. Approximately 382 Million Acres of U.S. Cultivated Cropland. 1992 NRI.

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Conservation tillage and wildlife

Conservation Tillage and Wildlife

Modified by the GA Agriculture Education Curriculum Office

July 2002


Conservation tillage and wildlife

Tillage practices greatly influence wildlife

habitats in agricultural landscapes.


Conservation tillage and wildlife

Approximately 382 Million Acres of U.S. Cultivated Cropland

1992 NRI


Conservation tillage and wildlife

Conservation Tillage - Any tillage and planting system in which

at least 30 percent of the soil surface is covered by plant residue

after planting to reduce soil erosion by water; or where soil erosion

by wind is the primary concern of at least 1,000 pounds per acre

of flat small grain residue equivalent are on the surface during the

critical erosion period. [NRI-92]

Conventional Tillage- Tillage types that leave less than 15 percent

residue cover after planting, or less than 500 pounds per acre of small

grain residue equivalent throughout the critical wind erosion period.

Generally involves plowing or intensive tillage. [CTIC-97]

Reduced Tillage - Tillage types that leave 15-30 percent residue

cover after planting or 500 to 1,000 pounds per acre of small grain

residue equivalent throughout the critical wind erosion period.

[CTIC-97]


Conservation tillage and wildlife

Conservation Tillage – Increasingin Popularity for its Conservation andEconomic Benefits.

Conservation Benefits:

  • Soil

  • Conservation

  • Water

  • Quality

  • Wildlife

  • Habitat

1996 CTIC data


Conservation tillage and wildlife

Tillage Practices Affect Wildlife

in 4 Primary Ways:

  • Amount of cover provided by crop residues

  • Availability of wildlife in food crop residues

  • Timing and frequency of disturbance

  • 4. Toxicity of nutrient inputs and pesticides


Conservation tillage and wildlife

Crop Residue Provides Wildlife Cover

In general, the higher the amount of crop residue,

the greater the value for wildlife cover.

Standing crop residue is particularly important.

Nesting cover

Winter cover

Small mammal diversity

increases with

crop residue


Conservation tillage and wildlife

Crop Residue Provides Wildlife

Food

Waste grain provides food for:

Waterfowl, songbirds, upland game

birds, deer, small mammals, etc.


Conservation tillage and wildlife

Tillage-Associated Disturbance and Wildlife

Adverse effects on nesting birds in crop fields:

  • Direct mortality

•Nest abandonment

  • Nest destruction


Conservation tillage and wildlife

Bird species found to nest in conventionally-tilled (T)

and no-till (NT) corn and soybeans (from Best 1986)

Corn

Soybeans

Species

T

NT

T

NT

Ring-necked pheasant

x

x

x

Killdeer

x

x

Mourning dove

x

x

x

x

Horned lark

x

x

American robin

x

Common

yellowthroat

x

Bobolink

x

Eastern meadowlark

x

Western meadowlark

x

x

Red-winged blackbird

x

x

Brown-headed cowbird

x

x

x

x

Dickcissel

x

x

Savannah sparrow

x

Grasshopper sparrow

x

Vesper sparrow

x

x

x

x

Field sparrow

x

x


Vesper sparrow nesting season

Vesper Sparrow Nesting Season

# Nests

May

June

July

Aug


Conservation tillage and wildlife

Reduced tillage (e.g., mulch and ridge till) systems may

provide enough cover to attract nesting birds, but the level

of disturbance during the crop cycle offers little chance for

nest success, creating ecological traps.

Frequency of disturbance may be more important than the

amount of nesting cover available - no-till provides the

best cover with the least amount of disturbance.

In general, tillage systems that reduce the number

of equipment passes and leave standing crop residue

improve nest success except when:


Conservation tillage and wildlife

Pesticides and Wildlife Risks:

Mortality Factors

Contact transfer from adults to young

Direct spraying on eggs and young

Ingesting poisoned insects and granular

pesticide products


Conservation tillage and wildlife

Insecticides are Generally More Toxic to Wildlife

than Herbicides, but Both May Cause Adverse Affects

Producers can use scouting and

other IPM measures and can select the least

toxic pesticide to use where needed


Conservation tillage and wildlife

Conservation Tillage Benefits

In the absence of natural grasslands, croplands can

provide “surrogate” grassland environments

for many grassland birds and other wildlife.

By providing food and cover, conservation tillage on

croplands enhances habitat quality for many species.

Any shift in tillage practices that increases crop residue

and/or decreases disturbance is beneficial.

For example:

conventional to reduced tillage

ridge-till to no-till


Conservation tillage and wildlife

  • Conservation Tillage, and Especially No-Till, in

  • Conjunction with:

  • Integrated Pest Management,

  • Crop rotation

  • Nutrient management

  • Conservation buffers

  • Greatly improves wildlife habitats in cropland

  • agricultural ecosystems.


Conservation tillage and wildlife

For more information on

Conservation Tillage and Wildlife

See comprehensive literature review on the WHMI website

www.whmi.iastate.edu


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