In our new paper, led by my USGS colleague Mark Vandever, we conducted a national evaluation of the persistence and quality of vegetation cover in expired Conservation Reserve Program fields. The work was recently published in the journal Ecosphere and is a follow-up to our first paper from this study. There is more to come out of this work related to expired CRP fields and tracking the durability of them using satellite data.

In this study, we conducted edge-of-field vegetation cover surveys in over 1,000 CRP fields with contracts that expired ≥3 years prior and nearly 2,000 currently enrolled CRP fields in 14 states. We found that 41% of expired CRP fields retained at least half of their area in CRP-type cover, with significant variation in persistence among regions ranging from 19% to 84%. When expired fields retained CRP vegetation, bare ground was low in all regions and grass cover was somewhat greater than in fields with current CRP contracts, but at the expense of forb cover in some regions. We found clear evidence that CRP-type cover frequently persists and provides benefits for more than three years after contract expiration. Retaining CRP-type cover, post-contract, is an under-recognized program benefit that persists across the central and western United States long after the initial retirement from cropland.

Top image: Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) captured this image (June 24, 2001) of center pivot agriculture in southwestern Kansas (shared by NASA Earth Observatory).