When youíre a farmer, and your personal and professional life depends on your land, you try your best to do the right thing. If you donít, you may not be farming long. The neat twist is that, when you protect your land, you end up caring for natural resources we all share, including the water we drink. Here are a few conservation practices from your local farmland stewards that can help you protect your land, your neighborhood and the water on which we all depend.
A backyard pond or wetland can indeed be beautiful, draw wildlife and add value to your property. Benefits donít stop there, though. Such a water feature will act like a cleansing filter for your land. Likely, the wetlands that once existed in your community were filled during development. Your re-creation of these wetlands can restore the ability of your land to filter stormwater runoff from roof and lawn while replenishing your ground water. In the early 1900ís, farmers were encouraged to drain wetlands for farming. Now that we recognize the importance of wetlands, many farmers are restoring them.
Composting is a natural process that speeds up the breakdown of organic matter, resulting in a. rich earthy smelling humus that can be added back to soil. The tiny organisms that do the decomposing need four elements to thrive: nitrogen, carbon, moisture, and oxygen. To get your own compost started, just layer up a 3x3 pile of nitrogen (yard clippings and food waste) and carbon (leaves and twigs), add a little water and in a few months you will have not waste, but plant food! Farmers donít throw away livestock and crop waste, but compost these materials and return them to their land.
Mulching is one of the easiest ways for you to help conserve water and protect your plants through drought and winter. Mulch is simply a protective layer of bark, straw, newspaper, gravel or even plastic spread on the ground around your plants. Conservation tillage is a farming practice that leaves crop harvest waste, like corn stalks or bean stems, on farm soil; creating a mulch layer that protects soil from erosion. Many farm crops are also grown using mulches to help conserve water and extend the growing season. Clear sheet plastics can even create a mini greenhouse effect; warming the soil for growing young plants
Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the nutrients most required by plants; nitrogen for leafy growth, phosphorus for flowering, and potassium for disease resistance. You can test your soil to see what is already available to plants and find out if you need to add any other nutrients. Farmers test their soils for ecological and economic reasons; applying too much fertilizer is a huge waste of money that can also be washed off by rains to pollute nearby waters.
Pest management can be a big challenge. It can be expensive and labor-intensive, and unless carefully planned, can produce unanticipated bad effects. Integrated pest management, or IPM, is the wise-use farm practice of involving many methods to combat pests. As alternatives to pesticides, farmers rotate crops, plant borders and use beneficial insects. Many farmers also regularly monitor their crops and use pesticides only if pests are causing significant damage to crops.
To learn more about Backyard Conservation, check out http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Feature/backyard/ .
Contact the Windham County Conservation District at 802-254-5323 Ext. 105.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 11 December 2007 )|
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