Best Management Practices
Agricultural operations in four experimental watersheds received best management practices designed to reduce the loss of nutrients and soil to Conesus Lake.
Agriculture is a major use of land in the Conesus Lake Watershed. Approximately 42 percent of the direct drainage in the watershed is in agricultural use. This makes farming important to the water quality of Conesus Lake. Local agricultural agencies, with participation of local farmers, founded the “Conesus Lake Watershed Group” (CLWG) to focus attention on watershed issues important to farmers. They coordinate and foster collaboration among academic researchers, governing bodies, and the agricultural community.
This project is a mechanism for the farming community to be proactive in watershed issues through education, implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) and by its traditional stewardship of the land being farmed. The goal of the project is to demonstrate, through the experimental watershed approach, that implementation of BMPs in agriculturally dominated watersheds will preserve soil and reduce nutrient loss from sub-watersheds. A second goal is to evaluate the impact of implemented BMPs by measuring the impacts on the downstream lake community at the sub-watershed scale. The following is an overview of the Best Management Practices that we have implemented in the Conesus Lake watershed.
Nutrient Management Planning
- Soil testing – inventory of what’s available in the soil. Do one-third of acreage each year.
- Manure analyses - know nutrient content and calculate quantity of nutrients produced and record applications.
- Credit nutrients from manure and crop residues.
- Calibrate fertilizer and manure spreaders annually.
- Use fertilizer applications to meet crop needs after crediting manure and recycled crop nutrients.
- Install manure lagoon to store manure to better manage the timing of application.
In this project, 1800 acres have been impacted by this practice.
- Use minimum tillage, strip crops, contour tillage and/or terracing to reduce runoff and keep soil loss below NRCS acceptable levels.
- Protect areas of concentrated water flow and hydrologically sensitive areas (wetlands).
- Consider subsurface drainage (tiling) to drain away excess water and improve infiltration.
- Install Water and Sediment Control Basins (WASCOBs) to minimize
surface flow of runoff.
- Plant cover crops whenever possible.
- Use crop rotations that meet NRCS standards for maximum soil loss.
Over 1800 acres have one or more of these practices in place or planned.
- Separate clean water from contaminated water, using roof gutters and barnyard curbs.
- Treat silage leachate plus dirty water from barnyards and milking centers so discharge meets NRCS standards using grass filter strips or storage.
- Fence cattle out of streams and provide alternative watering systems.
These practices are installed or planned where needed on cooperating farms.
- Balance rations to optimize production and minimize nutrients in manure.
- Test forage quality on a regular basis.
- Consider rotational grazing to optimize production and maintain ground cover.
Rotational grazing was established on 50 acres of pasture. Forage is regularly tested and rations balanced on cooperating dairy farms.
- Develop field maps, drainage maps, building layout maps.
- Record crop history and future crop rotations.
- Record manure, fertilizer and chemical applications by field, rate and date.
- Emergency action plan – deal with spills or runoff.
- Develop written goals for the next five years.
These BMPs are being used on the four farms in this project.