Sustainable Alternatives to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

2011 Annual Report for OW10-310

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2010: $50,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Donald D. Nelson
Washington State University

Sustainable Alternatives to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)


During the course of this project, we have learned that adaptability is a large part of sustainability. Not only do we have to be environmentally, economically and socially sustainable, but we have to adapt to unanticipated changes. In particular, we have had to adapt this project because it depends on the willingness of landowners with expired or expiring CRP-contracted land to forego the economic benefit of re-enrolling in the CRP program and allow grazing as a restorative practice of the degraded CRP lands. In large part, we have had to rely on public CRP-like lands.

Objectives/Performance Targets

On-Farm Research:

1. Develop criteria to evaluate the suitability of expiring CRP tracts for grazing, cropping, biomass production for bio-energy, outdoor recreation and/or wildlife habitat (Time line: summer 2012)

2. Evaluate methods of rejuvenating or inter-seeding into existing CRP stands to improve pasture quality (Time line: fall 2010-2013)

3. Mob grazing with dry cows during the fall dormant season, followed by grazing of yearling cattle during the spring growing season

4. Mob grazing during the dormant season with broadcast of seed for grasses, forbs and legumes

5. Mob grazing followed by seeding with a rangeland drill

6. Small plot trials of seed mixtures for pasture

7. Determine yield potential of organic wheat, barley or oats after soil incorporation of legume containing grazed areas (Time line: incorporations fall 2010 and 2011 with spring seeding 2011 and 2012)

8. Investigate the potential development of cooperative marketing strategies (Time line: summer 2013)


9. Demonstrate through on-farm field days and two multi-farm tours (Time line: summers 2012 and 2013)

10. Complimentary agriculture and recreation enterprises

11. Farmer-friendly ecosystem monitoring system

12. Effective use of temporary electric fence and portable animal watering systems

13. Demonstrate through traditional Extension in-person training and webinars (Time line: Spring 2012)

14. On-farm research design and analysis

15. A new land lease decision aid to determine whether to lease pasture, harvest hay or raise livestock


On-Farm Research:

• We have completed Objective 1; however, due to the loss of G&L Farms as a primary cooperator, biomass production for bioenergy will be omitted as a criterion from this Objective. The criteria for grazing the Dalles Mountain Ranch was proposed, revised and accepted by the State Parks, Washington State University and the environmental community.

• As to Objective 2, we have been interseeding legumes into CRP land to improve pasture quality, and we continue to seed native grasses and native forbs into CRP land to improve pasture quality and biodiversity.

• We have been using mob grazing with dry cows during the fall dormant season and have grazed yearling cattle during the spring growing season, and we will continue to do so (Objective 3).

• We have used mob grazing during the dormant season and broadcast-seeded grasses and forbs during and after grazing and have been using a range drill to seed grasses prior to and following grazing (Objectives 4, 5).

• We have completed Objective 6 on small plot trials to determine the optimal seed mixtures for re-vegetating CRP lands.

• Due to the loss of the primary cooperator, we have modified Objective 7 to include grazing of established crop, followed by evaluation of crop biomass and yield after grazing.

• Objective 8 will be investigated in 2013.


• We have conducted one on-farm field day and one multi-farm tour and will conduct one or two more in the summers of 2012 and 2013 (Objective 9).

• Objective 10 is being met by the recreational use of Beckley’s land for hunting and outfitting excursions, while the Dalles Mountain Ranch land is being improved as a nature-lovers’ destination to observe wildflowers and wildlife in an historic ranch setting. We continue to analyze the recreational use of CRP and other idle cultivated lands.

• We have been and will continue to perform trainings on farmer-friendly ecosystem monitoring and the effective use of temporary electric fence and portable animal watering systems (Objectives 11, 12).

• Objective 13 has been performed and will continue to be performed during the on-farm field days and multi-farm tours.

• Objective 14 has been completed for multiple farms and analysis will continue through the life of the project.

• Objective 15 has been completed by Shannon Neibergs.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Through our research, we have determined the specific grasses and forb varieties that effectively establish and compete with existing vegetation on decadent CRP. We have also been able to identify additional uses and opportunities for transitioning CRP land and have provided this information to agricultural landowners. Through the use of mob grazing and managed grazing, we are determining the benefits of reseeding prior to and after grazing, and the impact grazing has on biomass, plant health, re-establishment and plant diversity. Through on-farm tours and seminars, we have educated over 230 individuals on the benefits of managed grazing, how to monitor vegetation changes, and the effects of grazing on weed control, plant health, re-establishment of native plants and plant diversity. The positive effects of grazing the Dalles Mountain Ranch acreage were so visually clear to environmental overseers and the State Parks that what had been a somewhat probationary project became an enthusiastic ongoing collaborative endeavor. In May 2010, we conducted a farm field day at the annual Wagon & Wildflowers event at Dalles Mountain Ranch where we showcased the positive effects of high-intensity rotational grazing, including an increase of 95% in lomatium, 23% in lupine and 13% in arrowleaf balsamroot cover and removal of the heavy thatch layer of bluebunch wheat grass and its healthy regrowth (see Exhibits A and B).


Tip Hudson

[email protected]
Washington State University
507 Nanum St., Rm 2
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Office Phone: 5099627507
Dr. Steve Van Vleet

[email protected]
310 N. Main, Rm 209
Colfax, WA 99111
Office Phone: 5093976290
Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs

[email protected]
Washington State University
P.O. Box 64620
Pullman, WA 99164
Office Phone: 5093351553
John and Debbie Pearson

[email protected]
Farm owners
602 Chicken Ranch Road
Colfax, WA 99111
Office Phone: 5093972529
Frank & Josh Garrett

[email protected]
Farm owners
1234 Lee Road
Endicott, WA 99125
Office Phone: 5096573327
Jim & Will Sizemore

[email protected]
Farm owner
819 Yeackel Ln
Centerville, WA 98613
Office Phone: 5097733368
Gregg Beckley

[email protected]
G&L Farms
265 S. Beckley Rd.
Benge, WA 99105
Office Phone: 5098872418
Bob Hansen

[email protected]
Director-Friends of Columbia Gorge
P.O. Box 452
Lyle, WA 98635
Office Phone: 5093672736
Rich Davis

[email protected]
Columbia Hills State Park
Milepost 85 State Route 14
Dallesport, WA 98617
Office Phone: 5097671165
Barbara Robinson

[email protected]
Member Native Plant Society
500 Discovery Drive
The Dalles, OR 97058
Office Phone: 5412965334
Dr. Shannon Neibergs

[email protected]
Washington State University
P.O. Box 646210
Pullman, WA 99164
Office Phone: 5093356360