LEARN ABOUT CONSERVATION
Conservation is so much for than the farm bill. We have come to realize how inter-connected our resources are: soil health impacts crop inputs which impacts pollinator food sources which impact fruit and vegetable crops that we need to eat; tillage practices impact soil loss which contributes to nutrient loading and loss of storage capacity in the lake that we need as a drinking water source; stream-side (riparian) forest cover slows runoff and intercepts rainfall, reducing velocity of stormwater that enters our stream systems, slowing bed degradation and bank erosion; type of vegetation in field buffers impacts the species of insects that live there which impacts the existence of wildlife such as quail and other birds.
Here are some resources to help tie it all together.
Responsible livestock management is critical to our soil and water resources. Sustainable stocking rates ensure that adequate forage remains to cover and protect the soil and slow polluted runoff. Grass production may be enhanced with rotational grazing systems, made possible with designed watering systems. Unrolling round bales in new areas daily, moving mineral and feeding sites and fencing out streams contribute to a healthy livestock operation and cleaner water. Technical and financial assistance available.
Streambank erosion and bed degradation may be inevitable due to upstream development, however landowners can take steps to protect their land by planting vegetation along streams and on streambanks, by utilizing cedar revetments to capture sediment and in some cases, grading banks in conjunction with other practices. Technical and financial assistance available.
Eliminating tillage is the number one thing farmers can do to improve soil health. over time, with introduction of cover crops, biology in the soil wakes up and assists roots with taking up previously unavailable nutrients, organic matter increases and water holding capacity increases. Technical and financial assistance available.
Permanent Vegetation Establishment
Converting cropland to permanent vegetation can vastly reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the amount of nutrients leaving the field. Once established, soil will most likely stay in place, reducing sedimentation as well. Other benefits include wildlife and pollinator habitat. Technical and financial assistance available.
Wildlife Habitat Establishment
Establishing a prairie, wetland or forest has immeasurable benefits for wildlife AND water quality. Some landowners like to research the historic landscape of their property on Web Soil Survey – https://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/App/HomePage.htm. Technical and financial assistance available.
Phosphorus is an important nutrient for crops, and the most common method for applying it is surface broadcasting. While quick and economical, it is very easily washed away with stormwater runoff, and ends up in waterways and eventually our drinking water sources. Excess phosphorus in water bodies causes toxic algae blooms, which are harmful and sometimes fatal to pets and livestock. A better way to apply phosphorus is subsurface application, with a no-till drill or special applicator. Financial assistance is available.
Erosion and Sediment Control
The original soil conservation practice, terraces and grass waterways prevent soil losses and slow nutrient runoff. In a no-till system, terraces and waterways can last 40+ years. In a tillage system, they need regular maintenance and periodic reconstruction. Technical and financial assistance available.
The county’s high quality grasslands have supported a healthy livestock industry for more than a century. Historically, larger parcels with fewer fence lines were easier to manage with prescribed fire. Today, brush is threatening our grasslands like never before – Eastern Red Cedar is rapidly advancing through pastures and into forests. Some landowners mistakenly believe that wildlife prefers dense cedar stands, but none of our native wildlife thrive in such an environment. Prescribed fire, chemical and mechanical removal are all necessary means for reclaiming our grasslands. Technical and financial assistance available.