October 3, 2023

Edge of Field Practices Enhance Benefits to Farmers and Nature

” Ive wished to clean this up for years and years,” Dean says, recalling how gullies washed out from the banks and sandbars formed in the creek during heavy rains in his youth. Now, “were able to hold the banks of the creek actually well, simply since we have sod in place.”
Developing a grassy buffer area along the creek is among several edge of field practices Dean has executed to much better manage water and filter nutrients and sediments from water leaving his fields. Its particularly crucial in the area he farms in northwest Ohio, which drains into Lake Erie. Damaging algae blooms, partly credited to nutrient loss from farms, are a persistent issue in the region.
Partnering with Ohio State U.
Dean has also partnered with Ohio State University (OSU) to set up a drain water management system and a phosphorous filter that records the nutrients out of his tile drain system before releasing run-off water into the creek.
These edge of field practices operate in tandem with Deans infield practices of no-till, cover crops and nutrient management, for an entire farm method to conservation. Dean, in truth, has actually been a no-till farmer for 42 years, and for more than a decade, he has kept his farm covered with a living root year-round. He also runs a cover crop seed service.
” I try to do what I can on my part of the ground to make certain that were not permitting soil and nutrients to get back into that creek. Its simply the thing to do,” says Dean, who grows soybeans, wheat, barley, triticale and rye on 1,800 acres.
Dean has actually likewise practiced the 4Rs of nutrition management– applying the best source of fertilizer at the ideal rate and the best time in the right location. The 4R approach is a science-based framework for optimizing nutrient use, sustaining crop production and reducing nutrition loss from the fields, while considering particular individual farms needs.
Working with Nestor Ag, LLC, the very first independent crop specialist operation to make 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification, Dean has strived to apply only the needed quantity of nutrients where required, consequently lowering expenses and the capacity for excess nutrients and fertilizers to stream into waterways through tile or surface water overflow.
” We have in fact seen a decrease in the amount of nutrients were needing to use with our fields because of the method we farm, particularly with cover crops” Dean says. “As long as we have a cover crop out there, we just do not get much disintegration any longer at all, even at large rains occasions.”.
Edge of field practices play a huge role in farm stewardship and farm efficiency, says Brent Nicol, agriculture conservation specialist for The Nature Conservancy in Ohio. They minimize nutrition overflow, which in turn improves water quality, reduces flooding, and boosts wildlife habitat. “Long-term farm sustainability is truly just attained when edge of field systems, combined with in-field soil health and nutrient management practices, are incorporated into the operation,” he says.
Maximizing Edge of Field Practices.
Nathan Stoltzfus, task engineer at OSU, is helping Dean enhance his drainage management system. This kind of edge of field practice uses control structures on subsurface tile outlets (e.g., for subsurface tiles) to manage water drainage from fields throughout the year. Growers utilize these control structures to handle the water level in the field and only use the tile system to drain pipes water from the field during needed times of the year.
During the winter the control structure will turn off the drain system to enable more of the soil profile to store water, as drain is not generally needed during this time of year. To permit spring and fall field operations, the control structure will permit the field to completely drain pipes, while during the growing season the water level is raised up to root zone. Drain water management can cut nitrate loss from fields by 33% and decently enhances crop yields, though it might increase the potential for soil erosion when water levels are high. Complementary in-field practices like no-till and cover crops decrease that capacity.
Stoltzfus studied the hydrology and drain patterns for several of Deans fields with a higher risk for nutrient loss prior to putting in the control structure on the existing tile.
And then generally in the spring and most likely in the fall, theyll pull those boards up and enable all that water to stream on through. That way it does not interfere with planting or harvesting.”.
Phosphorus filters installed at the edges of fields consist of a product inside that chemically reacts with phosphorous liquified in the water to prevent it from leaving the farm. OSU research reveals they have the possible to get rid of up to 75% of the phosphorus in the water that passes through them.
” It is truly a fantastic method to get phosphorus out using what is a readily offered and pretty inexpensive product,” Stoltzfus states.
Other edge of field practices include:.

Vegetated buffers or field borders, like the grassy location Dean developed, offer a transition zone between the crop field and a waterway. The roots support stream banks and lower erosion, while filtering sediment and absorbing nutrients from surface area water flow off the farm. Perfect buffer locations include a varied mix of native grasses, though a basic lawn border can provide significant advantages.
A two-stage ditch is a trapezoidal drain ditch with added floodplain benches that are vegetated to slow water circulation, keep sediment and nutrients and support banks. The middle channel is for low circulation, while the vegetated benches soak up flooding at greater circulations.
Meadow strips are incorporated within crops or planted at the edge of crop fields to minimize nutrient and sediment loss while benefitting birds, pollinators and other wildlife.
A constructed wetland is a crafted community developed to optimize particular wetland characteristics and functions to improve water quality. “Wetlands are like the kidneys of edge of field practices,” states Nicol. “They filter out all the bad.”.

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Ohio farmer takes a whole-farm method to conservation
During heavy spring rains, Allen Dean watched a 60-foot tree float down the creek that crosses through one of his farms in Williams County, Ohio. Dean does not normally see such tremendous things float by, however he is accustomed to discovering big wood pieces in his fields after flooding from heavy rains occasions, and he dreads hitting them with his combine.
Fed up, Dean recently developed a grass buffer strip along a half-mile stretch of the creek in an effort to reduce flooding, eliminate invasive species and improve filtering of surface run-off water. He removed densely jam-packed honeysuckle bushes that water easily hurried under and reseeded the area with grasses. The buffer area slows water movement down in both instructions, potentially lowering flooding in addition to soil and nutrient loss from his farm.

Creating a grassy buffer location along the creek is one of a number of edge of field practices Dean has actually carried out to much better handle water and filter nutrients and sediments from water leaving his fields. Growers use these control structures to manage the water table in the field and only utilize the tile system to drain water from the field throughout required times of the year.
To permit for spring and fall field operations, the control structure will enable the field to completely drain pipes, while during the growing season the water table is raised up to root zone. Drainage water management can cut nitrate loss from fields by 33% and decently improves crop yields, though it may increase the capacity for soil disintegration when water levels are high. Vegetated buffers or field borders, like the grassy area Dean developed, offer a transition zone between the crop field and a waterway.

Getting Advice on Edge of Field Practices.
Stoltzfus encourages farmers to very first determine “critical source areas,” or locations of their farm that are closer to a receiving body of water and that have a higher nutrient level in the soil, maybe from previous farm management practices. Focus on where the water is going in those fields to identify whether you might have some crucial source locations.

Nicol further recommends farmers to take a look at their yield information to recognize fields that have an unfavorable return or are on less efficient ground. Edge of field practices, integrated with in-field regenerative practices, could assist make those acres more profitable for the farmer, reduce nutrient loading and produce some wildlife environment as well, he says. Nicol is teaming up with a nutrition company to evaluate 5 years of yield data in Ohio and says he frequently sees “little pockets of the field, in some cases at the edge, sometimes right in the center,” that consistently lose cash every single year. A wetland or other edge of field practice could be a good usage of that land, he states, and there are state and local resources to assist farmers with both technical help and expense sharing.
Wetlands and other practices are funded through the USDAs Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). “Why not get incentive payments instead of lose cash on an acre?” queries Nicol.
For more details on edge of field practices, growers can consult their local Soil and Water Conservation District or Farm Service Agency, or USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service agent.
When it comes to Dean, hes delighted to be dealing with OSU. “We wish to have an effect on our environment,” he says. “We wish to do the ideal thing, the favorable thing, and thats been my focus all my farming profession.”.