PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks is giving away a new seed mix that provides a habitat for insects eaten by upland game birds.
Brian Pauly, a private lands habitat biologist with the state agency, told The Daily Republic that the mix is a blend of nine species of flowering cover crops. He said birds like pheasants eat the insects, and planting the mix can help boost their habitat.
South Dakota pays landowners $20 for each acre planted with the mix, and lets them enroll a maximum of 30 acres.
The flowering mix is the third being offered as part of the state program to increase food plots for wildlife. The others are corn and sorghum.
Biologists from Pheasants Forever and the Department of Game, Fish and Parks came up with the new mix, Pauly said, as they found a need to boost insect numbers.
There about 800 landowners who participate in the program, and they plant about 9,500 acres. That's down from a decade ago when there were 1,100 landowners taking part, Pauly said. The decline happened in the mid- to late-2000s due to high commodity crop prices, he said.
“We're trying to promote flowering mix this year, and we have had more interest in the program this year than we've had in the past couple years,” Pauly said.
Landowners had committed to planting 1,200 acres of the new mix this year as of Wednesday, according to Pauly.