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Farm management: Good for you, good for our future

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  Keeping nutrients on your field is just as important as keeping them out of our waterways. The same nutrients that are essential for crop growth and profitability are the same nutrients that endanger water when they escape from the field. Sediment, organic matter, fertilizers, and pesticides are all nutrients that can come from farm fields and be transported to water either through erosion or storm runoff. Resource management is not a “one fits all” method. It is best to come up with a practice plan that is specific to your farm and goals. Effective agricultural management requires knowledge of how nutrients move across the land and the impact they have. Luckily, there are many management practices to help protect water and keep nutrients on the land. A soil test is a good starting point. A nutrient management plan can be developed from the soil test results. Following the plan will help keep nutrients on the field and out of the water by following the right rate, at the right ti

CREP Can Help You Protect Your Land For Future Generations

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Conserving water and soil resources helps to protect the land for our use now and for future generations. In fact, landowners often tell us the reason they request a conservation plan is to protect what is special about their land today, so that it will benefit their kids and grandkids once it is passed down . The connection between h umans and the land is a strong one. Like Hugh Hammond Bennet, the Father of Soil Conservation once sai d, “Take care of the land, and the land will take care of you.” The Shiawassee Conservation District offers free and confidential conservation planning assistance. Conservation planning offers many benefits, including learning wh at conservation programs you may be eligible to participate in. One of these programs is the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). CREP is part of USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). It offers enhanced financial incentives to landown ers who agree to establish and maintain eligible conservation practices. This g

6 Habits to Fall in Love with this Autumn

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  The leaves are falling, temperatures are cooling, and many of us are preparing our homes for winter. Fall is a great time for cleaning up around the house, but let’s not forget to keep water quality in mind while doing so. There are sources of water pollution that are unique to autumn, such as yard wastes, excess fertilizers, and many others. We have prepared a list of pollution prevention tips so that you can help protect water quality this fall! Leave the leaves. Leaf litter and other yard wastes dumped into streets or local bodies of water can cause flooding and harmful nutrient overload. If you can, leave the leaves on your property; they make for great additions to compost piles or can be mulched into your lawn. If you can’t leave the leaves, check with your township or city for yard waste collection dates. Fertilize with care. Many homeowners fertilize their lawns and gardens in the fall to give them an extra boost before spring. If you plan on using fertilizers, make sur

Let’s not treat soil like dirt!

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  Soil is a living, ever-changing mixture of organic and mineral material, gases, and water. Life within soil is sustained through plant growth, nutrient and organic matter recycling, and water infiltration. Everything on Earth depends on soil, and often this vital resource is overlooked. It is our responsibility to care and nurture the soil so that we can have a healthy planet for us and for future generations. Healthy soil is like a filter. It absorbs and purifies water before it enters our groundwater, lakes, and rivers. Keeping roots in the ground throughout the entire year, minimizing soil disturbance, and reducing compaction creates larger soil pores, which helps increase water infiltration. When more water can penetrate the soil, there is less nutrient and sediment losses, more water available for plants to grow, and more water that is able to filter down into groundwater. When we benefit soil health, we protect water quality. Soil is fragile and can quickly become out of ba

Filter Strips – An effective and affordable conservation practice

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This is not the first time we have written about filter strips and the amazing things they do to protect the water resources we all depend on. We have even held educational workshops and informational booths. We just can’t seem to stop boasting about all their environmental benefits, and it is for a good reason – they are an effective and affordable conservation practice. Filter strips are strips of permanently established herbaceous vegetation between a crop field and a waterbody, such as a stream, lake, or river. They “filter” water as it flows across them from the adjacent crop before entering the waterbody. They can be many different widths and planted to a wide variety of plants (grass, forbs, legumes). Each filter strip design depends on the site conditions, what pollutants it is filtering, and any additional goals of the landowner. The primary purpose of filter strips is to reduce sediment and other contaminants such as nutrients, pesticides, and manure in water runoff. They ha

The Dust Bowl: Lessons Learned in Soil Conservation

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  “Houses were shut tight, and cloth wedged around doors and windows, but the dust came in so thinly that it could not be seen in the air, and it settled like pollen on the chairs and tables, on the dishes.” John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath. The Dust Bowl devastated the southern Great Plains for eight years during the drought-stricken 1930s. Yellowish-brown dust blew making simple acts such as eating and breathing near impossible. Great dust storms rolled far eastward, darkening skies all the way to the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. The areas most severely affected were western Texas, eastern New Mexico, the Oklahoma Panhandle, western Kansas, and eastern Colorado. Drought, the Depression, and poor farming practices created what is considered one of the most serious environmental catastrophes the United States has ever experienced. Drought comes regularly to the southern Great Plains with an extreme one about every twenty years.   However, during the 1910s and 1920s, the southern plains