cover cropsThe Natural Resources Cons­erv­ation Service (NRCS) is ac­­cept­ing applications for the 2015 Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) sign-up. Iowa farmers who apply by Feb. 27 will receive first consideration for funding selections.

CSP is offered through a continuous sign-up, but NRCS periodically makes funding selections. Last year, Iowa NRCS obligated more than $4.5 million through 436 contracts covering 201,000 acres.

The program emphasizes conservation performance — producers earn higher payments for higher performance. Through CSP, farmers install conservation enhancements to make positive changes in soil health, soil erosion, water quality, air quality, plant resources, animal resources and energy.

CSP also supports the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy through various enhancement opt­ions. Some popular CSP nutrient reduction enhancements used by Iowa farmers include:

• Cover crops to scavenge residual nitrogen.

• Precision application technology to apply nutrients.

• Split nitrogen application (50 percent after crop emergence or pasture green-up).

• Plant tissue tests and analysis to improve nitrogen management.