CRP vs fallow/early successional growth


5 year old buck +
I have an 8 acre field that I began to enroll in CRP and I had in the plans to be a mixture of pollinators and NWSG blends. I've since had second thoughts about that after listening to Dr Harper talk about the benefits of cover (quickly growing) in a fallow ag field.

The field is a rectangle and drops in elevation from South to North (North facing) about 80-90 feet in elevation. It is pinched between two fence rows that are primarily mature box elders to the north and south. The east side is my property line and the neighbor has a 30 acre woodlot over there.

My goal is bedding cover and browse and I realize that my flexibility is greatly increased if I don't enroll in the CRP. At some point I may consider a long, linear food plot along the north fence row that snakes along to the south (along the west side).
My property has an abundance of food in relation to cover and I really need to increase cover as quickly as possible.
I took a 12 acre ag field out of rotation on the west side of my property last year and converted it to switchgrass with diversity pockets which should be great cover and habitat by next year. My pockets are filled with early successional growth and browse in under a year's time.

My question is, for those of you who have completed an ag field "restoration", what have you had success or failure doing? I'm contemplating starting the field off with a NWSG mixture and some additional forbs (similar to a CRP CP-25 mix) and then letting the early successional growth catch up and eventually over take it in the meantime I could mix shrub plantings and spruce plantings for bedding cover.
I could either do that, or let mother nature run its course and see what happens but also include some caged shrubs and spruce.
If the diversity pockets I have on the other side of my property are any indication, it'll be a box elder forest in no time, which I don't think is the worst thing.

I'm located in SE MN and have pretty heavy clay soil.
Thanks for any past experience or ideas you guys have. I'd be happy to add pictures of the field and property layout if you think it would be helpful.

Also, I'm aware that CRP pays better and would potentially be more diverse with pollinators, but I'm more interested in the best deer habitat/cover possible without necessarily being forced to maintain the successional growth at the mid term of a contract. As well as placing a food plot within the field eventually. If anyone has podcasts or YouTube stuff relevant to this that you'd like to share it would be much appreciated. Thanks!
I’m only one opinion so take this with a grain of salt.

I’ve done it both ways on my farm. Stopped haying fields and let them go natural and stopped haying fields and planted NWSG and walked away. For me the latter has worked better. The ignored NWSG fields have filled in with cedars and shingle oaks faster then the do nothing fields. Probably because I killed off the brome and other grasses that the previous farmer planted for hay when I planted the native grass.

A lot will depend on what’s in the seed bank.

Not sure what your field has been prior to this. If it was a hay field at the very least kill the grass before letting Mother Nature take over.
Sorry I should have mentioned that we've owned it for 8 years. It spent the first 3 years in alfalfa or hay, the next 4 in corn, and the current year was soybeans. So the field should be ready to go for planting if I choose to go that route.
As I told another on here - Soybean stubble is about the best frost seed / blank canvas as you can get!
This is sort of the boat I’m in on our east 160 open pasture ground with very little cover. Next year I’m converting 80 acres to row crop and will still pasture about 60 acres so this leaves me with about 20 acres for plantings of some sort. I’m leaning toward spraying the fescue this winter after a couple good hard freezes then drilling in some tall prairie grasses next year. I’ve even tossed around the thought of planting some bands of the Giant miscanthus grass along a road frontage for some fast cover.
I put 11 acres into a pollinator EQIP planting (CP42 through NRCS) this year. The downsides are time it takes for approval and time to get started. The upsides are that you are paid to do it and you get species planted that you may not have in the seedbank. Like @Bill said, it really depends on what's there. But, a good way to find out what is there is to let it go and see what you have. If you do go that route, I'd suggest discing a portion of it just to see the difference. Some seeds laying in the seedbank could benefit from a little disturbance to get started. Below is picture of mine. On the right (yes, right side without the flowers) is my pollinator planting that is full of foxtail. On the left is a food plot I didn't mow or kill off. You can see just by a little disturbance from disking to plant the foodplot, it jump started some of the native plants. My pollinator planting will eventually leap up, but it does take some time.
Since it has been in a rotation, I would plant. If it was just a fescue / hay field, i would recommend just spraying with gly and let the seed bank do its job. Reason I would plant now, is because it's probably prepped to be planted, and the seed bank is probably lacking what you would like due to the crop rotation.
Problem with letting the seed bank do its job is it has been ravaged by chemicals the past 5 years. Probably end up with a field of marestail, kochia, ragweed and foxtail would be my guess. I'd plant part in grass and trees and keep part for a food plot of sorts. If your not hard up for the cash I'd skip the crp as it limits your options.
I haven’t had a lot of luck with seed bank plants, most of mine are velvet leaf/marestail/buttonweed/lambs quarter.
Better to spray it off good in spring disc it let plants start spray off again then plant a good native grass mix with a clover mix in it.
You can always ad shrubs as you want, it will take a few years for the grasses to come on good..any conifers you put out would need protection or deer will beat them down.
I’m with everyone else. If it was beans frost seed this winter and get some herbicide down in the early spring.
I have the ability to run a Truax no till drill behind my 45 hp tractor, is that something you would do before frost seeding? It seems to me that one would be better suited to make sure even and consistent plantings would be better with a drill than with frost seeding.
Probably personal choice. I have a Great Plains drill that I’ve used for switchgrass but I prefer broadcasting into a coating of snow.
That is an old Paul Knox trick. It actually lets you seed how much seed coverage you’re getting. As the sun warms the seed sinks
Depends on what your broadcast seeder is if it’s hand thrown seeding or Mickey mouse spinner seedling then drill it if you have a ATV or 3 point seeder then flip a coin.