Reducing Nutrient and Sediment Loss: Part 3

Research being done at the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms and other related sites around the state is helping researchers determine what practices work best for reducing nutrient and sediment loss. Over the last five years, on-farm research has shown that three practices in particular help reduce nutrient and sediment loss:

  • Following the 4R approach
  • Reducing soil erosion
  • Developing a water management plan

Keeping valuable topsoil on the farm is critical to sustainable agriculture, and reducing soil loss can play an important role in water quality concerns downstream.

Soil erosion is the gradual process of deteriorating or wearing away a field’s topsoil by water, wind or mismanaged human activities.

Improved soil health and the use of cover crops can reduce soil erosion.

Soil Health

Soil health is a condition of the soil and its potential to sustain function within its natural or managed ecosystems. Soil health can be evaluated by several indicators, including pH, aggregate stability, available water capacity, active carbon and organic matter.

How it helps: A healthy soil performs many vital tasks, including regulating water and filtering nutrients. By improving soil structure, water can better infiltrate the soil profile and be absorbed.

“If you’re going to choose a practice as a fix (for a problem), it better be right. That’s why I think this testing is so important.” – Chris Kurt

interseeding-cover-crops
Interseeding cover crops into V5 corn at Kurt Farms.

Cover Crops

Cover Crops such as cereal rye, oats and winter wheat are planted to temporarily protect the ground from wind and water erosion and supply living roots to the soil during times when cropland is often not adequately protected.

How it helps: Keeping living roots in the soil as much as possible help improve soil health by adding organic matter and biological activity. The root structure of the cover crops also helps hold the soil in place during a season when the ground would otherwise be bare.

Preliminary research from edge-of-field studies shows cover crops can be excellent scavengers of nitrogen and help reduce the amount of what that leaves the field. Additional longer-term research is needed to develop conclusions about dissolved reactive phosphorus.

 

This article was featured in the July/August 2021 edition of Our Ohio Magazine

Cover Crops Conservation

Crops such as cereal rye, oats, winter wheat and many other species are planted to temporarily protect the ground from wind and water erosion and supply living roots to the soil during times when cropland is often not adequately protected. In conjunction with no-tilling, keeping living roots in the soil as much as possible helps improve soil health by adding organic matter and biological activity.

Ep. 17: Nathan Brown, Mental Health

On this episode of Field Day with Jordan Hoewischer, we talk to Highland County farmer Nathan Brown about the rising topic of farmer mental health and how the pressures of life as a farmer can reach a breaking point at times. We also talk about the cover crop field day he is hosting at his farm to raise awareness and educate farmers on the benefits of cover crops.