Missouri Native Forages

Ducks Unlimited

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is extending the application deadline to May 31, increasing funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by $3 million. The program is being delivered by Ducks Unlimited (DU) and helps grazing operations diversify and build climate resiliency. The Missouri Department of Conservation is also partnering on the project.

Through this unique opportunity, known as the Native Forages Initiative, producers and landowners can receive technical and financial assistance to establish native forages by either renovating existing non-native forage for haying or grazing or converting cropland to native forage for haying or grazing. Native grasses can increase daily weight gain during the summer, improve conception rates and are resilient to drought.

“The Native Forages Initiative in Missouri helps put more native grasses on the landscape as a major part of the forage base for livestock producers,” said Ryan Diener, DU grassland and grazing program coordinator. “Native grasses and broadleaves can play a pivotal role in helping livestock operations remain profitable by providing high-quality forage during the summer months when traditional cool season pastures and hayfields have drastically reduced production due to heat and drought stress.”

Native grasses also improve soil health and water quality while slowing erosion. Their deep roots and stiff upright growth keep soil from washing away and increase water infiltration, reducing the amount of nutrient runoff into rivers, streams and wetlands. Native grasslands retain more moisture in the soil, making them less susceptible to drought. Carbon sequestration and lower greenhouse gas emissions are another benefit of native grasses.

“Producers don’t have to supplement the diet of their livestock if there are more native grasses on their ranch, which makes for a more profitable and healthy cattle operation,” Diener said. “Some people may not realize this, but cattle are closely tied to waterfowl. Without healthy grasslands for cattle to feed on, ducks and geese would have fewer habitats to nest and refuge in.”

Producers interested in this opportunity can sign up to receive cost share from NRCS through the Native Forages Initiative. The Missouri Department of Conservation also offers an incentive payment for producers within grassland focal landscapes in Missouri. Producers should visit their local NRCS office or contact a Ducks Unlimited Grazing Specialist for more information.

Missouri Grazing Specialists

Central and Northeast Missouri: Ryan Lueckenhoff, 573-550-4942, rlueckenhoff@ducks.org

Northwest Missouri: Ryan Diener, 660-414-0603, rdiener@ducks.org