FORT ATKINSON-- Flowers can be beautiful and serve a purpose. Planting your CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) with wildflowers, makes a crop beautiful to look at and helps wildlife habitat. Last year was the second year running that Alvin and Edith Shindelar of rural Ft. Atkinson planted wildflowers and enjoyed watching and waiting for the them to bloom and brighten up the Iowa summer landscape. By the end of June, the flowers had achieved in their full glory. Additionally, the Shindelar’s had planted a thirty foot “firewall” around the wildflowers.
Corey Meyer, Project Coordinator explains, “The planting that is on Alvin’s is called a CP-25 mix. It’s a mix of 6-9 native grasses and 12-16 forbs, this mix has been distributed through the Pheasants Forever organization, and was designed to mimic the native prairie that once covered our landscape here in Winneshiek County and Northern Iowa. It is generally planted as part of the CRP to enhance wildlife cover and to protect soils from erosion. At one time we had over 10,000 acres of this mix planted in our county at the peak of CRP enrollment. In our current state of low pheasant populations the islands of this remaining habitat type will play a significant role in the rebound of the population. The seed generally costs $80-$100 an acre to purchase and another $30 an acre to seed down. This cost can be defrayed by utilizing cost-share through the CRP or through Pheasants Forever.”
Corey adds, "Any time a spectacular sunrise greets the hills of Winneshiek County, there is a good chance there will be a Rooster Pheasant cackling his praises to the landowner that owns his kingdom and their conservation-minded choice to plant native grasses and flowers. Whenever possible, native grass/forbs mix (CP-25 mix) or native grass such as Switch grass is recommended to landowners that are intending to place CRP on their property. The reason CP-25 mixes are recommended more times than not, is because this blend of species provides the best all season cover for pheasants, songbirds, and all the other little critters that may inhabit any given area. CP-25 mixes offer habitat needs favorable for roosting, nesting, brood rearing, and overhead protection, and only shows a slight weakness to lodging in heavy snow events. During heavy winter events and prolonged snow cover is when Switch grass tends to be the superior winter habitat for wildlife. When it comes to soil and water conservation, native grass/forbs species tend to be head and shoulders above the rest with the millions of root fibers that grapple to the soil and is one of the major historical reasons Iowa is considered the bread basket of the world due to its prairie derived soils.”
After visiting this special place, as I was driving away from the beautiful field of flowers that evening, a Rooster Pheasant suddenly flew up into the air not far away. It is very evident that the flowers are doing their job to help the wildlife population along the Turkey River.