Man in Farm

Conservation Practices

Speak to any of the staff members from Allegan Conservation District, NRCS, or MAEAP to learn more about how some (or all) of these conservation practices can be applied on your farm or land. Cost Sharing Programs are available to help offset the cost of implementing these practices.  

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Photo Courtesy of Brian Talsma

Conservation Tillage

Managing the amount, orientation, and distribution of crop and other plant residue on the soil surface year-round. Reduced Till and No-Till limits soil-disturbing activities. This has a variety of benefits including:

  • Reduce sheet and rill erosion

  • Reduce wind erosion

  • Improve soil organic matter content

  • Save money and time on fuel and energy use

  • Increase plant-available moisture

  • Provide vital wildlife habitat​

  • Reduces release of carbon (a major greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere

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Photo Courtesy of MorningAgClips

Cover Crops

A practice where farmers plant right after harvesting their cash crop for the growing season. The goal of cover cropping is not to produce a high yield, but to hold the soil in place and recycle nutrients to be used for the following growing season. Other benefits of cover crops include:

  • Reduce erosion from wind and water

  • Increase soil organic matter content

  • Capture and recycle or redistribute nutrients in the soil profile

  • Promote biological nitrogen fixation and reduce energy use

  • Increase biodiversity

  • Suppress weeds

  • Manage soil structure

  • Minimize and reduce soil compaction

  • Reduce pest pressure

  • Encourage Pollination

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Chemical and Waste Handling Facilities

These facilities has an impervious floor surface, such as concrete, to provide an environmentally safe area for the handling of on-farm agrichemicals and waste. Chemicals such as fertilizer, pesticide and fuels should all be stored in their appropriate handling facilities. Waste water, manure, and other biological hazards should also be stored and disposed of properly.

Above Ground Fueling
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Waste Storage Facilities
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Filter and Buffer Strips

Filter strips, also known as buffer strips, are a practice used to protect waterways by catching sediment and other pollutants before they enter the water. A filter strip is a band of vegetation at least 20 feet wide and can be used in many locations for different goals, some examples include:

  • On fields along streams, ponds, lakes, and drainageways

  • At the lower edge of crop fields or in conjunction with other conservation practices

  • As part of a riparian forest buffer system

  • Where there is sheet or uniform shallow flow (avoid concentrated flow)

  • As part of an agricultural waste management system

  • When they can be installed on the approximate contour

  • On slopes less than 10 percent

  • Where conservation practices reduce soil losses to an acceptable level

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Filter strips are not only great for their ability to slow runoff and prevent pollutants from entering the water, they can also serve as habitat for wildlife and add to farm aesthetics.​

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Grassed Waterways

A grassed waterway is a shaped, sloped channel that carries surface water at a slow pace to a stable outlet. This practice helps prevent erosion by conveying water from terraces, diversions, and water concentrated areas. The channels are planted with strongly rooted grasses to slow the flow of water, increase uptake of water back into the soil, and to filter pollutants and sediment from the water before reaching larger water bodies. 

High Tunnels

A seasonal polyethylene covered structure is used to cover crops to extend the growing season in an environmentally safe manner. Other benefits of a seasonal high tunnel include: ​

  • Improve plant quality

  • Improve soil quality

  • Improve water quality from reduced nutrient and pesticide transport

  • Improve air quality from reduced transportation inputs

  • More control over growing environment

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Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan

This plan is unique to livestock operations. To learn how to better deal with disposal of organic by-products, livestock manure, and to minimize erosion, a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) is created.

A CNMP starts with a comprehensive assessment of current site conditions and is followed by developing alternatives practices with NRCS, MAEAP or Allegan Conservation District. Possible outcomes are discussions of structural alternatives to address resource concerns. Cost share opportunities exist to help with the implementation of the suggested practices for your specific site.

Pollinator Gardens

Pollinator Gardens can be added to any farming system. While pollinator gardens serve the obvious purpose of creating habitats for critters who pollinate our crops, and native plant species they can also serve as an additional source of income (cut flowers), and add aesthetic value to a property. Additional benefits include:

  • Natural pest management

  • Filter surface water of pollutants and sediment

  • Encourage the migration of native invertebrates. 

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Photo Courtesy of Xerces / Karin Jokela

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Stream Crossings

A stabilized area or structure constructed across a stream to provide a travel way for people, livestock, equipment, or vehicles.

  • Provide access to another land unit

  • Improve water quality by reducing sediment, nutrient, organic, and inorganic loading of the stream.

  • Reduce streambank and streambed erosion

Two Stage Ditches

Two Stage Ditches are another water management plan to be implemented on a property where water erosion is a concern. In essence, two stage ditches create a stable floodplain that allows for excess water during and after a rainstorm to flow slowly to an outlet. Two stage ditches can be planted with grasses to help filter sediment and pollution before surface water enters larger bodies of water. 

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Photo Courtesy of Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network

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Photo Courtesy of USDA National Agroforestry Center

Windbreaks

Windbreaks are rows of trees or shrubs strategically planted to block or reduce the force of wind. When planted around a farm, windbreaks can protect sensitive crops, soils, and make the area more comfortable for livestock and farm staff. Other benefits include:

  • Increased crop yield

  • Decreased wind erosion

  • Blocks drift of unwanted pesticides and fertilizer

  • Protects pollinators

  • Promotes an even spread of snow across field during winter months