Description of Practices
Filter and Buffer Strips
“Conservation buffers are small areas or strips of land in permanent vegetation, designed to intercept pollutants and manage other environmental concerns.”
Riparian buffers, filter strips, grassed waterways, shelterbelts, windbreaks, living snow fences, contour grass strips, cross-wind trap strips, shallow water areas for wildlife, field borders, alley cropping, herbaceous wind barriers, and vegetative barriers.
- Improve soil quality by slowing water runoff, trapping sediment, and enhancing infiltration within the buffer. If properly installed and maintained, they have the capacity to remove up to:
- 50 % or more of nutrients and pesticides.
- 60 % or more of certain pathogens.
- 75 % or more of sediment.
- Improve water quality by removing sediment, fertilizers, pesticides, pathogens, and other potential contaminants from runoff. Conservation buffers help stabilize a stream, reduce flooding and reduce its water temperature. Buffers also offer a setback distance for agricultural chemical use from water sources.
- Reduce noise and odor.
- Protect biodiversity by providing a source of food, nesting cover, and shelter for many wildlife species. Buffers also provide connecting corridors that enable wildlife to move safely from one habitat area to another.
- Protect livestock, buildings, roads, and wildlife from harsh weather and wind damage.
- Financial Incentives. Available through USDA conservation programs–the continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) sign-up, Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), general CRP, Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
- Legal Compliance Incentives. Conservation buffers may help you meet Federal, state, or local pollution control requirements.
Slow and Controlled Release Fertilizer
A slow release fertilizer after application releases small amounts of fertilizer into the soil slowly, over time.
“Nitrate forms of N fertilizer are readily available to crops, but are subject to leaching losses. Nitrate forms should not be applied in large amounts when the leaching hazard is moderate to high. Ammonium N forms, such as urea or anhydrous ammonia, are preferred in these situations because they are not subject to immediate leaching. However, under warm, moist soil conditions, transformation of NH4 to NO3 occurs rapidly. Other more slowly available N sources are commercially available and should be used where they are economically feasible.”
“Recent improvements in slow or controlled release fertilizer technology have made these products more cost effective in a wider variety of cropping situations than in the past.”
“Tillage, generally, is defined as those soil-stirring operations performed for the purpose of producing crops. Conservation tillage is an umbrella term that encompasses any tillage and planting system that maintains at least 30% of the soil surface covered by residue following planting, or a system that maintains at least 1,000 pounds per acre of small grain residue on the surface during the critical erosion period.”
No tillage, mulch tillage, strip tillage, ridge till, minimun tillage. (http://www.fao.org/3/T1696E/t1696e09.htm)
- Eliminate field operations, reducing production costs as well as soil compaction.
- Reduces soil erosion caused by wind and water, making crop production more sustainable.
- Reduce the loss of fertile soils and nutrients, maintaining yields.
- Economics benefits to growers.
- Environmental benefits such as providing shelter and habitat for wildlife, protecting water quality by reducing the amount of sediment carried downstream to lakes and waterways, and potentially reducing herbicide use due to decreased weed infestations.
Soil testing can greatly vary in cost, testing methods and parameters tested. “A reliable soil test correlates soil nutrients to plant use, and fertilizer recommendations calibrate tests to field conditions for individual crops. Soil testing for the purpose of fertilizer recommendations requires not only reliable soil test methods but also reliable field calibration data over a period of years. ”
Soil tests can be conducted for a wide range of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium salinity, pH, cation exchange capacity, sodium absorption rate, conductivity and more.
Financial savings. “Once the relationship between soil test values, fertilizer rates and crop yield is known, it is possible to determine the most economical fertilizer rate.
Many people do not have a clear understanding of soil testing. The confusion revolves around the fact that the nutrient content of soil seldom is important in testing for fertilizer recommendations because of the many chemical forms of nutrients in soil.
Plants can use only certain forms of nutrients, which account for a very small portion of the total amount of that nutrient in the soil. Therefore, test results are often called “availability indexes.” Such indexes relate specific laboratory test values to availability as the growing crop experiences it in the field.”