Thanks for sharing. I can certainly think and look back to the hey days and see why. Less pasture and disturbed soil problematic. It explains much of my success and/or failure in today's farming practice environment.
It restates that continued rest is not a beneficial habitat management practice for our low plant succession adapted upland birds. Quail in the study are showing that in the first year without fire or grazing. I've seen this here where our grass often outgrows the gamebird plant succession threshold in the first growing season without the additional influence of cattle.
Thanks for sharing this article. The MDC called this the SouthWest Study (Missouri), and it was originally planned to study quail nesting/brooding success in traditional row crop habitat vs warm season grass (CRP) Several eye opening observations came out over the 5 years. Mating/nesting happened weeks earlier in the CRP than originally thought, Quail didn't use the CRP areas unless it was either burned, or plowed/disc, or grazed every year. My untrained observations from what data MDC shared was: Hawk predation on mature birds was very high March through June, for the 30 pairs captured per site over 5 years, the amount of nests incubated were stunningly low, the hatch rate was very low, and the species that was supposedly known to mate and nest again and again after the first nest or a failed nest, happens at a very low percentage. i was hoping that nest predation would be documented with cameras, rather than just a hypothesis, but they did add quite a study on racoons and their travel patterns later in the study. i have tried several times through complaining, whining, emails, and resolutions, to get MDC to continue and expand this study to focus on nesting success, insect availability, predators, and eliminating parasites, and virus as major causes of poor reproduction success. As i believe that if we could eliminate one or two of the top twenty reasons our west central missouri quail can't seem to repopulate themselves after twenty years, we could find some success. The MDC field staff that did this study are to be commended for their efforts. some of this study can be seen in THE COVEY HEADQUARTERS NEWSLETTER, available online from the MDC. Excellent reading about habitat how-to.
I made a rather drastic change in the way we do business on my family farm this year. We rented it to a "regenerative" farmer, who incorporates cover crops and cattle grazing, along with crop rotations other than corn/bean. The other talking point is minimal pesticides - and I think insect life is a serious missing link in the corn belt. Hadn't seen your article yet when I made that change, but it seems to back up some of my thoughts. On highly productive farm land taking a $40/ac hit by going to CRP is a small area proposition - in our case +/-5% by area. However the one thing I am seeing is exactly what the article suggests - in my area the habitat quickly become too thick and overgrown for it to be prime quail habitat.
I am hoping that we can get a situation set up where the incidental grazing allowed on CP21 CRP will be used instead of mowing. I could be completely off base here, but what I saw when my old farmer mowed the CRP was that we ended up with a ton of dead matter matting up (blocking quail movement in my mind) and areas quickly being taken over by brome instead of what we planted. Brome sure seems to benefit from mowing, and I'm hoping that a better class of plants will benefit from grazing. I'm fairly well convinced enough that this "fad" of regenerative farming is better for long term soil health and the environment. I am hoping it will be a positive for wildlife habitat.