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10 Low-, No-Cost
GETTYSBURG (Adams Co.)
Everyone benefits from soil
and nutrient conservation prac
tices. Both the environment and
the farmer can win from imple
menting best management prac
However, with the economic
conditions faced by the agricultur
al community, the implementation
of some BMPs may not be finan
cially possible for many farmers.
Nevertheless, there still exists a
large arsenal of low-cost, and even
no-cost, BMPs available to farm
ers. The following BMPs not only
benefit the farmer and the en
vironment, but they also improve
public perception of farming, as
1. Buffer strips: Although this
BMP docs take some land out of
annual crop production, leaving
buffer strips along streams and
roads can pay for themselves in
soil and nutrient savings. A
10-12-foot buffer strip of perman
ent grass along streams, road
ditches and road banks is very ef
fective as keeping soil and nutri
ents from leaving the field. It can
also keep one in good graces with
PennDOT and local roadmasters
who won’t have to clean out road
side ditches quite as often.
2. Contour strips: Nothing
looks quite as picturesque as a
field laid out in contour strips. Not
only docs it look nice, but contour
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Ephrata, Pa. 17522
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strips do an outstanding job of
breaking up long hillsides with al
ternating strips of row crops and
hay or small grain crops. These
strips hold back water and, conse
quently, any soil or nutrients sus
pended in it.
3. Contour farming: Some
fields may not be suited for con
tour strips, or may not need to be
stripped. For these fields, planting
the crops across the slope will
greatly improve soil retention.
4. Plowship waterways: It never
fails. Every year it will happen.
Gutters and gullies in those small
drainage swales. Again the pro
blem of crossing and/or closing
them exists. Sjmply letting those
swales in grass can often solve all
that. Pulling up the plows and
discs and turning off the spray
equipment through these areas
will allow the swales to remain ve
getated. The grass can then simply
be mowed or cut for hay.
5. Constructed waterways and
terraces: In many of the larger
drainage swales, a plowskip
waterway may not be sufficient.
These will require a constructed
grass-lined waterway. That sound
s like it costs money, right? Well,
those costs can definitely be low
ered if the farmer does the work.
Many times the waterway can be
constructed with farm equipment.
A tractor and moldboard plow can
do the job. Terraces, yet another
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SECTION C • WEDNESDAY AT 5:00 P.M.
SECTION D • THURSDAY AT 9:00 A.M.
OF EACH WEEK’S PUBLICATION
Conservation Practices In Use
fine conservation practice, can
also be built with a plow. If you
would like more flexibility with
rotations, tillage, and/or residue
management, consider this tech
nique when developing or revising
6, Crop rotation: Continuous
row crops arc becoming a thing of
the past. Many farmers have re
alized the added benefits of in
cluding small grains and hay crops
in their farming rotation. Crop ro
tation increases the effectiveness
of a pesticide and herbicide pro
gram, improves soil tilth, and
helps in balancing nutrients. It is
also one of the most beneficial
BMPs included in conservation
plans to keep soil erosion at a
minimum. To lessen the need for
costly constructed BMPs, consid
er incorporating crop rotation to
meet the needs of a conservation
7. Residue management: Many
people refer to this practice as
“dirty farming.” Although this
may not look very pretty, keeping
the residue from the fall harvest on
the lop of the ground over the win
ter provides an excellent mulch to
lessen the impact of rain and lower
soil erosion. It also retains soil
moisture and saves time and mon
ey by eliminating fall tillage.
8. Nutrient management; Stu
dies continue to prove that nutri
ent management is the most cost
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effective means of preventing sur
face and groundwater pollution. It
can also mean great savings for
farmers. Accounting for all the
nutrients applied to a crop from
fertilizers, manures, sludges, and
compost will prevent the over ap
plication of nutrients. For proper
nutrient management two pieces
of information are needed: 1) what
the crop needs and 2) the amount
of nutrients applied. Soil testing
and manure, sludge or compost
analysis will provide this informa
tion. Balancing the crop needs to
the nutrients applied will lessen
the potential of nutrient run-off
and leaching into groundwater.
Note: By regularly soil testing and
accounting for nitrogen credits
from legumes and soybeans, grain
farmers who apply no manures
can reap benefits from nutrient
management as well.
9. Spot treatment of herbicides
and pesticides; Although this
BMP is not a soil or nutrient con
servation practice, it sure can con
serve money for the farmer.
Scouting fields and applying
chemicals only to those areas that
need it, will lessen the amount
used and will, consequently, les
sen the likelihood of surface and/
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or ground water contamination.
10. Field road maintenance
Poorly sited or badly maintain
Held roads can often be a maja
contributor to soil erosion. To let.
sen erosion in Held roads, pig,
their placement carefully. Avoid
poorly drained areas, steep high],
credible areas, and put them on
the contour as much as possible
Avoid permanent roads when pot
sible. This will prevent the sang
area from being exposed yearafie
year. Whether permanent or ten
porary, always watch for gull)
formation in field roads and repat
them as needed. Also cons Ida
stoning the field entrances to les
sen the amount of soil deposited
on the roads.
As public concern escalates
soil and nutrient conservation anc
environmentally sound farming
practices will continue to be high
ly demanded of the agricultural
community. BMPs such as those
discussed here can help farmers
meet that demand with very little
financial burden and then we all
will truly win.
For more information about
these and other BMPs, contact
your local conservation district or
the Soil Conservation Service.