Healthy soil and lakes
Agriculture is an important part of our local economy and culture. In fact, two out of three acres in the Yahara watershed is farmland. Farmers work to supply dairy, produce, meat and other products to national and international markets, with the best interests of their family and business in mind.
How can our community work to protect water quality and our local farms? Partners like Yahara Pride Farms, Dane County, Yahara WINs, and Clean Lakes Alliance are working to promote smart management strategies that make economic and environmental sense.
How are farmers helping our lakes?
Agricultural conservation practices help to reduce erosion and prevent phosphorus runoff into our lakes. In recent years, Yahara Pride Farmers have reported more than 18,000 pounds of phosphorus reduced through conservation practices. Here are a few “lake friendly” practices to look for in our watershed:
1. Covering the field
Keeping fields green after harvest helps protect soil and reduce erosion. Cover crops provide a canopy to reduce the impact of rainfall on the soil. This allows nutrients to stay on the field for future crops and helps keep our waterways clear.
2. Protecting waterways
Adding a grass buffer between crop fields and waterways keeps phosphorus in its place. Buffer strips help to reduce erosion and runoff from fields by creating a a barrier that filters runoff before it reaches our waterways.
Grassed waterways, present within a field, help reduce runoff in row crops by planting grasses where water normally flows. These vegetated waterways slow the rate of soil runoff by filtering the soil for pollutants, such as sediments and organic matter, before they reach nearby waterways.
3. Manure management
For every pound of dairy a cow produces, it will also produce two pounds of manure. Managing these nutrients requires balancing complex factors, such as soil needs, transportation costs, and storage capacity. So how can farmers make decisions that are good for our lakes and their bottom line?
Having a Nutrient Management Plan on file is the first step farmers can take to be a good steward of nutrients. Practices like manure composting, manure digestion, and low-disturbance manure injection can help give farmers more control over when and where to apply nutrients. This is always good news for our lakes!
Partners in Pride
Our agricultural partner, Yahara Pride Farms, is a farmer-led group working to protect soil and water quality in our watershed, while making the economic case for conservation practices. We’re proud to support their work with close to $500,000 in support since 2012. Learn more about our agricultural partner.
How can I help?
Take the time to learn more about the complex factors that drive urban and rural sources of phosphorus to our lakes. Cleaning up our lakes is a community job, and we’ll get there faster if we work together.
You can directly support good work by farmers by donating to Conserve an Acre. Each donation of $50 supports the use of conservation practices such as cover crops or buffer strips on one acre of farmland.
- University of Wisconsin-Extension: Cover Crops in Wisconsin
- United States Department of Agriculture: Cover Crops
- Natural Resources Conservation Service: Conservation Buffers
- Natural Resources Conservation Service: Grass Waterways
- Wisconsin State Farmer: Benefit of Cover Crops Touted in Yahara Watershed