Farming systems, once beneficial for bobwhite and many other wildlife species, included a diversity of habitats such as fencerows, shrubby cover, crop rotations, fallow/weedy fields, mixtures of native grasses and forbs and inefficient grain handling.
With the increase in farm size, clean and weed-free fields, and more efficient harvest practices, many farmers have been able to stay in business, but quality early successional vegetation that provide habitat for bobwhites and grassland birds has been greatly reduced.
Bradford Research Center works to implement techniques that can be used to enhance wildlife habitat on the farm. For example:
- Farming up to the edge of a wooded draw results in a lack of edge and fencerow habitat which also resulted in poor yields.
- Waterways and diversion channels were formed and are typically planted to tall fescue which although is an excellent guard against erosion it is not a very wildlife friendly grass.
- Unmanaged Native Warm Season Grasses were of little use to bobwhite quail except for escape cover because of a lack of bare ground.
- Natural prairie and wetland remnants were invaded with non-native species such as Reedcanary grass and Sericea Lespedeza which can be invasive and offer little benefit to wildlife.
- Strip disking native warm season grasses in the fall and spring open up the understory for more beneficial forbs (non grass species) and annual grasses which allows bobwhite quail ample bare ground to move through. Anuual forbs and grasses are also a source of seed and most importantly a source of insects for baby quail chicks.
- Fall and Spring prescribed burning help reduce the competition of the native warm season grasses and encourages forbs and annual grasses.
- Predominance of tall fescue and little shrubby cover across much of the farm.
- Field border/edge management around crop fields. A mixture of native grasses and forbs are planted in 30-120 borders around field edges to provide food, nesting ground, and cover for bobwhite quail and other species.
- Using a mixture that is heavy with native forbs this area already provides an excellent food source for quail and other bird species.
- Tall fescue has been replaced with native warm and cool season grasses that provide a better food source for bobwhite quail.
- Covey Headquarters have been established at several locations on BREC. These headquarters are a mixture of shrubs that are beneficial to bobwhite quail throughout the year.
- Different mixes of native cool season and warm season grasses were planted in a diversion channel to compare those and tall fescue (middle) for their suitability for erosion control and wildlife benefit. One native cool season grass, Virginia Wildrye (front), emerged quickly and has done quite well.