Blog

Dane County Rural Initiatives

The Dane County Land Conservation Division helps landowners plan, design, and implement conservation practices, with the goal of protecting water quality and conserving soil in Dane County. 

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By Heidi Johnson, Dane County UW-Extension Crops and Soils Educator

The use of cover crops as a conservation practice in conventional, commodity crop production has been greatly increasing over the last couple of years. Here is a quick run down on what cover crops are and how they are being used in agriculture.

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Harvestable Buffers with Yahara Pride Farms
If you’ve seen swathes of grass on farmland, you may be familiar with the concept of conservation buffers. These strips of vegetation slow runoff and separate farm fields from waterways, helping to keep our streams and lakes healthy. Yet with increasing urbanization and growing farms, land in our watershed is at a premium. One option, harvestable buffers, is offering many farmers in Dane County a way to reduce phosphorus runoff while keeping valuable acres in production.

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Composting grant looks to identify new tools for managing manure

MADISON, Wis. — Clean Lakes Alliance has been awarded a $60,000 two-year grant from Fund for Lake Michigan to determine whether windrow manure composting could have water quality impacts in the Yahara River watershed and beyond, including potential reductions in phosphorus runoff.

“Our lakes face serious challenges from urbanization and intensification of agriculture,” said Elizabeth Katt-Reinders, Clean Lakes Alliance Deputy Director. “With its potential to manage manure, benefit soil health and protect our lakes, composting could be a big win-win.”

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When we talk about our lakes, we often end up talking about our farms. This should come as no surprise: if you walked onto a random acre of land in Dane County, chances are two times out of three you’d be looking at a farm.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture, agriculture in Dane County accounts for $3.4 billion in economic activity annually. From our multi-generational dairy farms, to our land-grant university, to the Dane County’s farmer’s market, agriculture is part and parcel to our identity.

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Lake Mendota has officially frozen over, after a long warm spell that left many wondering when (and if) the lake would ever freeze.

After a cold front drove temperatures below zero over the weekend and winds died down, Lyle Anderson, office manager at the Wisconsin State Climatology Office, knew the conditions were right for “instant ice.” Residents may have noticed a “steam fog” hanging over the lakes, created when cold air moves over warmer water, also a “harbinger of freeze.”

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Project update via Peter Foy, President of the Friends of Lake Kegonsa Society

The Friends of Lake Kegonsa Society (FOLKS) has initiated what is hoped will result in a major carp removal project that will be conducted over the next two years on Lake Kegonsa. An initial carp tracking study is intended to identify times and locations where large concentrations of carp might be targeted for removal. FOLKS is working closely with Dane County, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the UW Limnology Department on this challenging project. The project will be supervised and monitored by Kurt Welke, Fisheries Manager, WDNR with support from Dr. Richard Lathrop, honorary fellow at UW-Madison Center for Limnology and retired DNR limnologist.

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Our community loves our lakes, and we’re in it for the long haul. And like every serious relationship, there are always “what-ifs.” Take the long view and ponder the future along with this opinion piece in Madison Magazine — by Jenny Seifert, science writer and outreach coordinator for the Water Sustainability and Climate project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.