Join us for our next Pasture Walk May 30, 2024!

Crop Field Establishment Plan

Following an establishment plan

To maximize your investment in seed, follow the establishment plan to get the best chance of success. These timelines are guidelines. Weather and individual situations can change the process and the dates mentioned are only recommendations.

During establishment and for the life of a native planting, always consider the movement of seed with vehicles and equipment. We recommend you blow down or wash off equipment and vehicles before entering the field, especially if the equipment/vehicle was recently used in a field ripe with seed of a species you do not want in your native planting (e.g. fescue, sericea, Johnsongrass).

Choose the best timeline

If you’re not sure this is the right establishment plan for your situation, use our Planting Timeline Selector or read the Establishment Plans Overview.

Converting a crop field

You may want to convert a field that is currently being cropped to perennial native plants. Or you may want to crop a field for a couple years to produce income while preparing for your native planting. If either of these is the case, this timeline is for you.

These guidelines are for fescue/clover pastures. If the pasture contains Bermudagrass, Johnson Grass, Sericea Lespedeza, Caucasian Bluestem, Crown Vetch or other problematic species, the guidelines may need to be adjusted.

If the field to be planted has already been cropped the previous year or years with good weed control, you can skip to the Plant Native Seeds section.

Special considerations for crop fields

This timeline uses glyphosate-resistant crops, but other herbicide/crop combinations may also be used. It is important with any herbicide to ensure that the herbicide will not have a carryover problem in the soil that will impact native seedlings. It’s also important to identify the weed problems so that the proper herbicide(s) may be used for their control. 

In crop fields, there are often field borders, fence lines, grassed waterways, etc. that are not cropped. However, when doing a conversion to natives, you need to kill the existing vegetation from the entire field. Even if it is impractical to plant these areas to crops, make sure you kill the vegetation so that the seeds of the undesirable plants do not pollute and invade the native planting.

Sometimes in long-term crop fields, natives do not establish well, possibly because the soil biology is unhealthy. If you feel this is the case with your field, consider cover cropping and other techniques to boost soil health before planting natives.

Kill existing vegetation

September – November, year 1

Fescue should be sprayed when actively growing. If the fall rains have not come, delay the spraying until fescue is actively growing. If fescue is really the only weed of concern, the field can even be sprayed up through early November.

Follow up on any misses and pay special attention to fence lines, field borders, areas under trees, creek banks, and other hard to get to areas. While these areas are often ignored for cropping, it is important to address them when preparing for a native seed planting.

spring, year 2
Plant glyphosate resistant corn or soybeans in the spring. It is best to follow the planting dates provided by the seed provider in your area.

summer, year 2

When weeds become a problem after planting, the crops can be sprayed again with glyphosate as needed. Use herbicide as recommended for the crop, but give special attention that no weed seeds fall on the ground.
August – November, year 2
It is now time to harvest the corn or soybeans. Harvest the traditional way with a combine, chop for silage, or graze the crop.

Plant native seeds

winter / spring, year 2 – 3

January is a great target but definitely plant before February 15 for most native species. Some species of native warm season grasses can be planted in the spring as well.

If the species of plants are tolerant to the Panoramic herbicide, refer to the Panoramic Establishment Plan for Diversity or the Panoramic Establishment Plan for Warm Season Grasses Only for the next steps, beginning in the Plant Native Seeds section. Likewise, if the species of plants are tolerant the Atrazine herbicide, refer to the Atrazine Establishment Plan for Diversity or the Atrazine Establishment Plan for Warm Season Grasses Only for the next steps, beginning in the Plant Native Seeds section.

Notes on using herbicides

Always read and follow label directions of an herbicide! The labels are not only helpful in knowing how to be safe, but they also provide great information about how the herbicide is most effective and how to keep the soil and environment healthy.
We’ll walk you through every step from site preparation and planting to maintenance.
Explore videos and articles on native plant philosophy and practical tips.
Dig deeper

into the world of native plants

dig deeper icon, Hamilton Native Outpost