Crops

Nutrient Management

Proper nutrient management is essential for crop production and preventing excessive nutrient loss that impacts our water quality.

Nutrient management goes beyond applying fertilizer. It is about knowing your soil, your farming operation, sensitive areas, and current regulations.

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Look up my farm’s Soil
Why you should soil test?

By knowing what’s the physical characteristics and nutrient supply of our soil can help manage our farming operation to reduce costs and maximize production. In many cases, farmers find their soil may have adequate nutrients needed for the next year’s crop which results in instant savings on your annual fertile costs.

Grid testing

Go beyond one test per field or soil type and consider grid testing. This type of testing provides a detail plan of where your nutrients, ph, etc are highest and lowest within the field. Grid testing is a precursor for variable rate fertile application which can save even more money by putting fertilizer right were its needed and not where it’s just going to wash off.

4R Nutrient Stewardship

Proper fertilizer management can make all the difference between healthy crops or just watching your investment wash away in a heavy rain. Following the 4Rs or four RIGHTS of fertilizer management helps you benefit while protecting the environment.

RIGHT Source – Choose the right type of fertilizer for your plant availability and soil properties
RIGHT Rate – Assess plant demand, soil nutrient supply and predict fertilizer efficiency to establish rate of application
RIGHT Time – Assess the timing of crop uptake, weather factors, and dynamics of soil nutrient supply before applying
RIGHT Place – manage spatial variability of nutrient supply, limit off field transport, fit needs of tillage system when applying

For more information on the 4R Approach visit www.4Rtommorow.org

Drainage Management

Drainage from surface and tile water can carry excessive nutrients from the field to Lake Erie.  Although adequate tile drainage helps to reduce surface run-off which often causes erosion and nutrient loss, recent studies have determined about 40% of nutrient loss occurs in tile drainage.  To help reduce the loss of these valuable nutrients drainage management systems can be installed at the outlets to reduce the flow of excess nutrients and water.

These systems can be fully opened when drainage is needed to work in the fields and restricted post planting or post harvest when full drainage is not needed.  This type of system is NOT designed to flood a field.  Instead, the system can be an asset to collect and store water that can be used for the crop during the drier months.

Blind Inlets

Structures that help to drain depressional areas in farm fields can potentially carry highly concentrated nutrient laden water into the tile system.  Installing a blind inlet in place of the typical inlet creates a sand/stone filled sump with a perforated underdrain that forces the water to filter before entering the tile.  The filtering system is installed below grade; eliminating the “stand pipe” obstruction and reducing the amount of nutrients escaping the farm.

Soil Management

The health of the soil is the basis for all life on earth. As soil loses organic matter it becomes degraded often resulting in compaction, erosion, and less nutrient and water holding capacity. The more soil is degraded the more work we need to do to it to keep our yield up.

Stopping Erosion/Building Health

It takes over 100 years to make one inch of soil and if you’re not careful you can lose one in of soil in one heavy rain! Preventing erosion takes cover to help break or reduce the erosive forces of wind and rain.

Waterways

Waterways are natural or constructed channels, shaped and graded to required dimensions, and seeded with suitable vegetation for stable conveyance of runoff. The grass-lined waterway is one of the most commonly used conservation practices.

When rainfall exceeds the infiltration rate or available water-holding capacity of the soil, surplus water will run off over the land. The success of any soil conservation effort depends on the removal of this surplus water without undue erosion.

Cover Crops/No-Till

Providing cover not only reduces the impact of rain and wind on the soil surface it also feeds the microorganisms in the soil that help to maintain structure and health. No-till is the process of leaving the previous crop’s residue and planting directly into that residue the following year. Over time the old plant mater will decompose and be taken back into the soil by earthworms.

Cover crops are crops that are planted toward the end or after harvest to cover and feed the soil throughout the winter. Different species or mixes of species aid in soil health, weed suppression, nitrogen building, and reducing compaction. The key to using cover crops is to consider your soils needs, pesticide system (residuals), crop rotation, and application type.

To find out more visit:
www.no-tillfarmer.com
http://www.mccc.msu.edu/states/ohio.html

Cover Crop Aggregation Program

In 2015, the Erie Conservation District teamed up with Buckeye Soil Solutions to get cover crops early in corn and beans by using a modified Miller Sprayer. This was made possible my aggregating several farms together to bring the service to Erie County. Participating farmers paid $15/ac plus seed cost to get the full benefits of cover crops by planting early and extending their growing time by over 2 months! To learn more visit www.buckeyesoilsolutions.com

Windbreaks

Windbreaks are a several rows of shrubs and trees planted along fields to help reduce or redirect winds which increases crop yields, reduces soils erosion, blocks snow, and provides wildlife habitat.   Windbreaks are usually planted mixing several species of trees and shrubs, include evergreens, and staggering the planting rows. They may be used to protect crops or property such as homes or outbuilding.

To find out more about windbreaks check out this windbreak fact sheet (pdf)

For funding on windbreaks visit the Northwest Ohio Windbreak Program

Drainage

Agricultural producers and landowners who are concerned with the need to dispose of excess water can initiate a group drainage project as well as a petitioned drainage project through our office.

Drainage processes follow the Ohio Revised Code, sections 6131 or 1515.

The disposal of excess water continues to be very important from an economic standpoint.

Water rights laws as they relate to the disposal of excess water in rural and urban areas are very complex.

Existing laws have been under development for a long period of time and continue to be reviewed and updated.

Importance of proper drainage

As a home or business owner, water can become the enemy very quickly. Proper drainage facilities are one of the most valuable investments that can be made by an owner.  Excess water ponding or pooling in and around structures can cause significant maintenance issues. Proper grading and drainage systems are necessary the owner’s investment.

Not only should drainage systems be installed, but regular inspection and maintenance should also be performed to insure the systems continue to function properly. Small, incremental investments in maintenance over time will prevent significant property damage and losses from flooding caused by a system that fails through neglect.

Who maintains the drainage system?

The landowner or occupant is responsible for maintenance of drainage facilities on their private property. These facilities may include: gutters, downspouts, foundation drains, sump pumps, open swales or ditches, and enclosed tiles that carry rainfall away from the property.

Drainage facilities within public rights-of-way or publicly owned properties are the responsibility of the public body that has jurisdiction over the road or property. Typically, maintenance of these facilities is the responsibility of township, municipal, county or state government. The Conservation District is a good place to start to determine who has responsibility for what portions of a project.

Are streams or ditches the responsibility of the local government?

It depends.

If the water course has been constructed or improved through a petition process by the conservation district or county engineer’s office, it is usually on the county ditch maintenance program administered through the Erie County Engineer’s Office. The ditch maintenance program maintains petition ditches and storm sewers in several developments throughout the county.

Maintenance of streams or ditches on private property that have not been petitioned for improvement through a public process is the responsibility of the landowner. Who owns the streams? Depending on the extent of maintenance required the owner may be required to obtain permits from local, state, or federal agencies before beginning the work. The conservation district can provide guidance on who to contact to obtain permits.

What if my drainage ditch needs improvements?

There are a few ways to request/receive improvements on a local ditch. The county petition ditch process provides a mechanism for landowners to request assistance of the Erie County Engineer and County Commissioners to perform drainage improvements.  The Erie Conservation District can provide assistance through petition process under a Conservation Works of Improvement project or by assisting private landowners form a Cooperative Group to fund and make improvements privately.

In all cases, the landowners in the watershed of the improved area pay for the construction and continued maintenance of the project based on the acres benefited by the drainage improvement. Petition projects are placed on the Erie County Ditch Maintenance Program upon completion to insure yearly inspections and on-going maintenance.

What can I do about my neighbor’s water running onto my property?

Ohio Drainage Law legally addresses drainage rights and runoff issues. The reasonable use doctrine frequently applied by the Ohio Supreme Court permits broad latitude in the interpretation of individuals rights as they pertain to drainage. It states, “A possessor of land is not unqualifiedly privileged to deal with surface water as he pleases, nor is he absolutely prohibited from interfering with the natural flow of surface waters to the detriment of others. Each possessor is legally privileged to make a reasonable use of his/her land, even though the flow of surface waters is altered thereby and causes some harm to others. He incurs liability only when his harmful interference with the flow of surface water is unreasonable.”

Civil law, through court action, determines whether a change in the flow of water is “reasonable” on a case-by-case basis. Landowners have the right to make “reasonable” changes in the flow of water to protect their property from damage, but may incur liability for changes that “unreasonably” affect neighboring properties.

The district can provide an on-site investigation and evaluation for a landowner to provide guidance and recommendations on handling drainage water.

Stream/Wetland Management

Streams and wetlands are very important landscapes that are responsible for helping move water through a watershed on its way to Lake Erie.

They also serve as essential nursery habitat to support our multi-billion dollar commercial fishing industry. Sadly many of our streams and wetlands are not in good health but conservation practices could help change that.

Buffers and Filter Strips

Buffers and Filter Strips help to reduce sedimentation and nutrient runoff into the Lake Erie watershed. We love to maximize our acres but we lose little and again a lot when we buffer our streams, ditches, and wetlands with grass or trees. Any buffer is better than none at all but we love to see over 10ft on ditches, 20ft on streams, and 50ft on rivers. Of course, every buffer needs to be designed to meet the particular objectives of the property owner and the unique qualities of the associated site.

Find out how Lake Erie CREP can help.

Wetlands

Wetlands permanently or semi-permanently saturated lands that develop unique soil and plants that are adapted to being water logged. They are more than just a swamp or “that wet spot” and they are nature’s kidneys and they deserve our respect. While providing unique habitat for our wildlife they also work hard to store stormwater and filter pollutants. Ohio has lost over 90% of our wetlands through drainage improvement projects and development.

Wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act. Before you dig, fill, clear, or tile you should always get a wetland determination through the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Find out how Lake Erie CREP can help.

Stream Restoration

With the loss of wetlands and the increase of development our streams often get more storm flows then they can handle. As a result, our streams flood and banks can be ripped apart losing soil, vegetation, and even large trees. When streambanks become unstable the potential of erosion increased with each rain. Depending on the erosion type restoration or revetment may warranted to halt further damage.

To prevent streambank erosion it is always important to leave a stream some room with a buffer of natural vegetation. Plant roots (especially willows and native grasses), act like rebar in the soil. It is always best to leave existing vegetation rather than cut it all down…once lost it often is difficult and expensive to reestablish.