Conservation

Conservation is defined as the act of conserving or keeping from change, loss, injury; the protection, preservation and careful management of natural resources and of the environment.  Collectively, there are varied and numerous ideas of how to conserve and what to conserve.  Logan Soil and Water Conservation District focuses primarily on soil and water conservation as it applies to agriculture resource management.  We partner with USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service to address the soil and water conservation needs and concerns of the local agricultural sector.  Technical and cost share assistance facilitates the establishment of various conservation practices tailored to accomplish soil and water conservation objectives and to address a land owner/user's resource management concerns.  Conservation practices comply with the standard and specification guidelines provided by NRCS and the United States Department of Agriculture.  Conservation programs are administered in accordance to NRCS and United States Department of Agriculture rules, policies and procedures.
What is soil erosion?  Soil erosion involves the breakdown, detachment, transport, and redistribution of soil particles by forces of water, wind or gravity.  Soil erosion on cropland is of particular interest because of on-site impacts on soil quality and crop productivity, and off-site impacts on water quantity and quality, air quality, and biological activity.

What is a waterway?  A waterway is a shaped or graded channel that is established with suitable vegetation to convey surface water at a non-erosive velocity using a broad and shallow cross section to a stable outlet.  The purpose is to convey runoff from terraces, diversons and other water concentrations without causing erosion or flooding to prevent gully formation and to protect/improve water quality.

What is surface and subsurface drainage?  Surface drainage is the removal of excess water from the soil surface.  Typically surface drainage is accomplished with a waterway or an open field ditch/channel.  Subsurface drainage is removal of excess water below the surface of the soil.  A subsurface drain is a conduit/ such as corrugated plastic tubing, tile, or pipe, installed beneath the ground surface to collect and/or convey drainage water.  The purpose of a subsurface drain is to:  
  •       Improve the environment for vegetation
  •       Reduce erosion
  •       Improve water quality
  •       Regulate ground water and water table flows
  •       Collect ground water for beneficial uses 
  •       Remove water from heavy uses areas, such as recreation areas, or around buildings
  •       Regulate water to control health hazards caused by pests
Subsurface drainage is used in areas having a high water table where the benefits of lowering the water level are worth the expense.  The practice also applies to areas that will benefit from controlling ground water and/or surface runoff.  The soil must meet certain suitability requirements and an adequate outlet must be available to assure the drain will function properly.  Subsurface drainage is tile installed at location, depth and spacing based on site conditions including soils, topography, groundwater conditions, crops, land use and outlets.     

What are conservation buffers?  Conservation buffers are small areas or strips of land in permanent vegetation, designed to intercept pollutants and manage other environmental concerns.  Buffers include:  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.  Strategically placed buffer strips in the agricultural landscape can effectively mitigate the movement of sediment, nutrients, and pesticides within farm fields and from farm fields.  When coupled wtih appropriate upland treatments, including crop residue management, nutrient management, integrated pest management, winter cover crops, and similar management practices and technologies, buffer strips should allow farmers to achieve a measure of economic and environmental sustainability in their operations.  Buffer strips can also enhance wildlife habitat and protect biodiversity.  Conservation buffers slow water runoff, trap sediment, and enhance infiltration within the buffer.  Buffers also trap fertilizers, pesticides, pathogens, and heavy metals, and they help trap snow and cut down on blowing soil in areas with strong winds.  In addition, they protect livestock and wildlife from harsh weather and buildings from wind damage.  Conservation buffers reduce noise and odor.  They are 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.  Conservation buffers help stabilize a stream and reduce its water temperature.  Buffers also offer a setback distance for agricultural chemical use from water sources.

What constitutes soil health and why does it matter?  Soil is made of air, water, decayed plant residue, organic matter from living and dead organisms, and minerals, such as sand, silt and clay.  Increasing soil organic matter typically improves soil health since organic matter affects several critical soil functions.  Healthy soils are also porous, which allows air and water to move freely through them.  This balance ensures a suitable habitat for the myriad of soil organisms that support growing plants.  It's not difficult to improve soil health.  Here's how:  till the soil as little as possible; grow as many different species of plants as possible through rotations and a diverse mixture of cover crops; keep living plants in the soil as long as possible with crops and cover crops; and keep the soil surface covered with residue.  Farmers who manage their land in ways that improve and sustain soil health benefit from optimized inputs, sustainable outputs and increased resilency.  Healthy soils benefit all producers - managers of large, row crop oeprations to people with small, organic vegetable gardens.  Healthy soils provide financial benefits for farmers, ranchers and gardeners, and environmental benefts that affect everyone.
  
What is manure/nutrient management?  In the agricultural setting, nutrients are the building blocks for plant growth and production.  Common nutrients are the elements nitrogen and phosphorus which are available in several forms.  Livestock production in particular, is a producer of waste materials that need management.  These wastes include manure from a lare number of different animals, wastewater from sanitizing operations, unused pesticide mixes and pesticide containers, and residue from food processing operations.  Wastewater and sludge from municipal treatment plants, which are often applied on agricultural land, must also be managed.  The job of assisting agricultural producers to manage wastes begins with helping them recognize the need to improve their waste management system.  The challenge of helping these producers recognize their needs is shared by many government, university, and private organizations.  The conservation plan and comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) is the producer's guide for managing and maintinaing the resource base.
  
TIPS FOR MANURE MANAGEMENT IN WINTER
Time to evaluate your manure storage situation before winter is upon us.  Spreading manure in the winter is not recommended, actually a practice that should be avoided.  If winter time manure application enters state waters via surface runoff/snow melt, it is a violation of the pollution abatement rules with potential of a fine.  The risk of runoff into surface water increases when applying manure to frozen or snow-covered ground.  The greatest risk of nutrient runoff occurs within 72 hours of a rainfall or snowmelt.  Avoid spreading manure when there is a greater than 50% chance of one half inch of rain within 24 hours or if the ground is frozen or snow-covered.  The ground is considered frozen when the manure cannot be incorporated.

If applying manure in the winter, please be mindful of the following recommendations.
    
  •     Select fields covered with a living cover crop or at least 90% crop residue.
  •     Select fields away from surface water or tile inlets.
  •     Do not apply to any land subject to flooding or where water collects.
  •     Sloped fields close to surface water or tile drains are not suitable for application.
  •     Avoid applying manure on more than 20 contiguous acres.
  •     Do not apply more than 5000 gallons/acre of liquid manure or 10 wet tons/acre for solid manure that has greater than 50% moisture.

 

Follow winter application setback recommendations. 

  •  300 feet from wells.
  •  200 feet from all grassed waterways, road ditches, surface drains, stream and field surface furrows.
  •  300 feet from neighboring residences.