Switchgrass Plantings

Year round survival cover is a significant limiting factor for Colorado’s pheasant population. From Division research from the mid 1990’s, it is evident that pheasants face significant mortality pressures nearly every month of the year, because night-roosting and survival cover good enough to limit predation is uncommon. One solution to this problem was developed by seeding small waste areas or difficult to farm corners to switchgrass. Often, switchgrass has been seeded into areas that farmers cannot get large farm equipment into, or in combination with other PHIP plantings, like shrub thickets, two-row shrub plantings, or even Continuous CRP field windbreak plantings.

page8tractorSwitchgrass is the preferred species of grass for several reasons. Switchgrass provides pheasants with a habitat that will remain standing through all but the worst winter storms, and grows tall enough in Colorado (2-4 feet in most cases) to provide birds with overhead predator protection. Because switchgrass is a native species, it is fairly drought tolerant, and grows well in most types of soils found on the eastern plains. Switchgrass plantings also provide excellent cover for nesting pheasants, because pheasants frequently depend on residual cover for initial nesting in the spring. Being a warm-season grass, the primary growth stage often coincides with mid-summer rainfall, and results in a tall, dense habitat that greatly increases in value as winter approaches. In recent years, we have encouraged the addition of grasses including yellow indiangrass, and forbs like alfalfa, sweet clover or sunflowers into these plots, which only enhances the project’s value to pheasants.

Switchgrass Plantings by Chapter and Year

  1993 – 95 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 Total Total Acres
Phillips County 96 44 13 3 5 1 1   163 836
Yuma County 9 40 7         19 75 464
Northeast Colo. 19 2     1       22 80
Washington Cty. 2 7       1 1   11 56
Frenchman Creek   9 5       1 1 16 61
Morgan County       1 10 5 8 9 33 252
Smoky River       1 2   3   6 41
East Central CO       1         1 4
Southeast CO         1       1 115
Baca County PF         2       2 22
TOTALS 126 102 25 6 21 7 14 29 330 1,931
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